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Miguel Ángel López sleeps easy with his decision to leave Movistar and to return to Astana for 2022.
Speaking to media Wednesday in a press call, López gave his version of events of what led to his dramatic departure from Movistar in the closing moments of the 2021 Vuelta a España.
“The best thing to do was to leave,” López told journalists, with reactions posted on the Colombian daily El Tiempo. “To some, it appears a lack of respect, but the facts say something else. The most important thing is to be where you like to be, wherever it is, and do things with passion.”
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López spoke for the first time at length about his controversial exit from the Vuelta’s final road stage and his subsequent decision to break his contract with the Spanish WorldTour team Movistar.
He’s since penned a deal to return to Astana-Qazaqstan for 2022.
López on Movistar: ‘I didn’t want to be there’
So why leave the Vuelta?
“It wasn’t due to my condition,” he told journalists. “It was like a cup overflowing. There were a lot of things that were building up, and the best thing I could have done was to make this decision and leave Movistar. It’s not something I’ll do again, but the lesson I take away is that you have to be where you want to be in order to shine.
“There’s a bit of regret for not finishing on the podium, but there are details I prefer not to talk about, it’s a closed chapter now,” he continued. “I didn’t want to be there, and I arrived at an agreement, and that was the best thing that could have happened. Now I am in a place where I am valued, where they want me.”
— Astana – Premier Tech (@AstanaPremTech) October 15, 2021
The López scandal continues to churn inside both Spain and Colombia, where each nation seems to have taken a side in the subsequent fallout of what happened on the road in Galicia.
López had started stage 20 in third overall, but got gapped in the hilly and challenging road stage across Galicia. There are different versions of what happened: López said the team ordered him to stop chasing, with the implication that it would mean that Enric Mas, a Spanish riding sitting second overall, would be assured the podium.
Movistar brass countered that they were asking López to stop pulling in a chase group filled with non-committed riders in order that Movistar riders coming up from behind would have a chance to gain contact, and then help pace López back toward the front.
In the heat of the moment, tempers blew up, and López unexpectedly stepped off the bike, angrily got into a Movistar car, and refused to finish the stage.
López on exit: ‘I preferred to go down another road’
What led to that explosion is one of the enduring questions.
According to López, the flare-up in the Vuelta was just the latest in a long-running list of affronts.
López also suggested that Movistar told him not to race the Olympic Games with the promise that he would be the sole leader at the Vuelta a España. In the end, López was a substitute rider on the five-rider Colombia team for Tokyo and did not race, and later shared leadership duties with Mas at the Vuelta.
“I had just extended my contract, and then things happened, and there were details that I later discovered little by little,” he said. “Not going to the Olympics, leaving the Tour, and other things in the Vuelta, sharing leadership, everything that happened. I felt this same tension, and I preferred to go down another road, even though a lot of people ethically speaking might not see it that way.
“When they tell you not to go, well, no. They tempt you with the idea of the Vuelta, but when I saw that the team opposed me going to Tokyo, I told them that I’d sacrifice for that,” he said. “But later I think that the Olympics only happen once every four years.”
López also said he turned down an offer from Bora-Hansgrohe to join Movistar, something he said also regretted, “sometimes you choose one path and you later realize you were wrong.”
López also confirmed that he was in contact with Astana team officials the day after the abandoned the Vuelta.
“Despite everything that happened, my season was good,” López concluded. “I did the right things at Movistar, with four wins, among them the only win they managed in a grand tour.”