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Movistar boss on exit of Miguel Ángel López: ‘The worst decision possible’

Longtime manager Eusebio Unzué reveals new details, saying López threw a 'tantrum' and turned back on teammates.

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Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué still can’t believe that Miguel Ángel López walked away from the Vuelta a España.

The veteran Spanish manager said he’s never seen anything like it in his four decades in the pro peloton and remains dismayed at López’s controversial Vuelta exit and subsequent fracture with the team.

Unzué, speaking in an interview with El Diario Navarra, said López is to blame for what happened on the Galician roads last fall.

“It’s a shame. He raced a good season, though it’s true he had some bad luck at the Tour, he bounced back to his level at the Vuelta. But what happened, happened,” Unzué said. “He wasn’t capable of taking on the direct challenge he had to stay on the podium. He made the worst decision he could, and he provoked what happened.”

An image from Spanish TV of the moment López abandoned the 2021 Vuelta.
An image from Spanish TV of the moment López abandoned the 2021 Vuelta. (Photo: Spanish TV)

Unzué clarified his point of view on the hot talking point of López’s dramatic departure from the Vuelta.

Just days before, the Colombian won the “queen stage” at the Gaminoteiru climb and started the Vuelta’s last tricky transition stage poised third overall.

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López was gapped, and could only watch in desperation as his podium spot disappeared up the road. Movistar teammate Enric Mas safely covered the move and retained second overall when the Vuelta concluded the next day with a time trial in Santiago de Compostela.

Instead of fighting on through the stage, and still finishing the Vuelta well within the top 10, an angry López stepped off the bike in the final hour of racing.

Unzué said he still cannot believe it.

“Nothing like that’s ever happened to me, and even though a lot of time has passed by, I still do not understand what happened,” Unzué said.

“I knew what his character was like, a bit strange sometimes, but anyone else would have been happy to have finished sixth.

“And of course, as the athlete that he is, one has to be able to come to terms that he couldn’t do it, and that’s it.

“The frustration and the desperation are understandable, but to leave like this, no …”

A break with the team

LAGOS DE COVADONGA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 01: (L-R) Enric Mas Nicolau of Spain and Miguel Ángel López Moreno of Colombia and Movistar Team compete during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021, Stage 17 a 185,5km stage from Unquera to Lagos de Covadonga 1.085m / @lavuelta / #LaVuelta21 / on September 01, 2021 in Lagos de Covadonga, Spain. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
Miguel Ángel López (right) accused teammate Enric Mas of being ‘selfish.’ (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The fallout from the incident splashed across headlines for weeks.

López and Movistar quickly broke their contract, and he’s since rejoined Astana-Qazaqstan for 2022.

“The facts didn’t deserve anything else, but he and his wife through his manager chose their way,” Unzué said. “They didn’t want to continue, we broke our relationship, and that was it.”

Also read: López will regret walking away from Vuelta

Unzué said he and other Movistar riders and sport directors urged him to continue, but López was having none of it.

“Instead of accepting it like any other moment, he saw it as another podium escaping his hands, and that generated an enormous frustration that he wasn’t able to overcome.

“He could have thought about finishing sixth, but instead of having a normal reaction like any other athlete, he had a tantrum for the answer.

“We wanted him to keep fighting because what was still ahead and what he could still achieve was still very important in respect to his teammates, the staff, and the sponsors.

“It couldn’t be that after working so hard for all of the Vuelta that everything just fell apart and went to shit in this manner. He was frustrated and he took himself out. His head filled up with everything that happened, and adiós.”

More fodder for Netflix?

Eusebio Unzué, shown here in a file photo, said he’d never seen anything like it in 40 years in cycling. (Photo: JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images)

When asked about what was said in Colombia, how the team treated Nairo Quintana or Richard Carapaz, Unzué shrugged his shoulders.

“Everyone has their opinion … the reality is what it is.

“These kinds of episodes are not good for anyone, but it’s what happened to us, and it’s happened before on other teams,” he said. “We are not the first and we won’t be the last.”

The López meltdown was the latest episode that’s played out in public for the Spanish WorldTour team, and it put the team back into the spotlight.

“Social media seems to magnify everything and now more than ever. It’s true that it presents the young generation more chances to make mistakes, but that’s the world we live in.

“Criticism is everywhere, and I always say that the day when we are not at the center of the debate, we’re dead, we’ve disappeared.

“What worries me is if it harms the image of our sponsors, rather than what they might say about us. To be in the spotlight has its good and bad points.”

Also read: López angrily pulls out of Vuelta a España

When López abruptly walked away, many said it will make for some great viewing on the team’s Netflix documentary series called, The Least Expected Day.

A new season of the series, however, is not yet confirmed, so it’s unsure if fans will get the inside scoop on one of the biggest blowups in recent cycling history.

“We’ve opened ourselves up, and there are people who really appreciate that, but there are certain risks that go along with that as well,” Unzué said. “Everything isn’t always well-groomed and smiling like in a photo, and whether you like it or not, sometimes things turn out the way they do.”

What happened to Marc Soler?

Marc Soler moves to UAE Emirates after a split with Movistar. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Marc Soler was once the diamond in the rough for Movistar. After a few frustrating seasons, Soler switched to UAE Team Emirates and turned the page on Movistar.

“We were hoping he would mature and develop into a leader,” Unzué said. “This year we gave him the chance at the Giro, but he didn’t have much luck. And we all saw what happened on the first day at the Tour. You don’t know if it’s because he’s not up to being a leader or to other factors.

“For one reason or another, it didn’t work,” he said. “He and his advisors understood it was time for a chance, and I agreed.”