López, Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), David de la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates) and Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) were among a group of GC contenders who were dropped on the third climb of the day, the Alto de Mougás, after Ineos Grenadiers had pushed the pace in a last-ditch move to blow the race apart.
López, who lay third overall and two days ago won stage 18 atop the Alto d'El Gamoniteiru, was forced to work alone in the chase as Gino Mäder and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) drove the split with Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
The gap only grew on the descent off the Mougás and was up to four minutes by the time the riders had hit the penultimate climb of the day, the Alto de Prado, with 30 kilometres to go.
Shortly afterwards, Spanish television network TVE reported that López – who at that point had fallen three places in the virtual standings – had stopped riding and that Movistar's head of performance Patxi Vila and his teammate Imanol Erviti were persuading him to continue the race.
Conflicting reports on López's race status followed, though a video emerged later showing López speaking on a phone and climbing into the Movistar car. It is as yet unclear why the 27-year-old has decided to quit the Vuelta.
López, who recently signed a two-year contract extension at Movistar, joined the Spanish team from Astana-Premier Tech this year and has had a season of ups and downs in 2021. He won the Vuelta a Andalucía and the Mont Ventoux Denivélé Challenge before early crashes ruined his Tour de France GC hopes.
🔴¡Las imágenes de Miguel Ángel López subiéndose al coche del equipo Movistar para abandonar esta Vuelta! #VueltaRTVE4S El colombiano, en rebeldía, decidió abandonar la carrera pese a la insistencia de su jefe de filas Patxi Vila📹@villamorforever https://t.co/X7FzypTYD7 pic.twitter.com/oLthMVMoOxSeptember 4, 2021
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