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Movistar and López issue apologies amid Vuelta a España controversy

Controversy at La Vuelta
Controversy at La Vuelta
(Image credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The Movistar team have issued an apology after facing a barrage of criticism for their decision to ride hard on stage 19 of the Vuelta a España in the immediate aftermath of race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) coming down in a big crash. Fourth-placed Miguel Angel López (Astana), who was also involved in the crash, has himself apologised for his fierce criticism of Movistar and their leader Alejandro Valverde.

The crash occurred on a tight downhill some 65km from the finish in Toledo, with several riders on the deck, nursing wounds. It wasn't long before Movistar, who avoided the crash, significantly upped the pace in what was left in the peloton, leaving Roglic and Lopez with a frantic chase to get back to the front. 

After around 15km, they eased up, the group reformed, and all the main protagonists finished together, though not without recriminations. 

"Shameful," was what former pro Joaquim Rodríguez thought of Movistar's tactics, with many others echoing the sentiment that it was wrong to capitalise on such a moment of misfortune to attack the race leader. "A filthy tactic," said Mitchelton-Scott's Luka Mezgec. 

Movistar's initial reaction came through sport director Jose Luis Arrieta, who argued it had always been the team's plan to accelerate at that point in the race, where crosswinds were a threat. He also alleged the UCI commissaires helped pace the Roglic and Lopez group back up. 

Later on Friday evening, Movistar released an official statement, and struck a more conciliatory tone. 

"The Movistar Team would like to apologise for the events that happened during today’s stage. Our way of proceeding followed exclusively the strategy we had outlined before the race, and was in no way a means of taking advantage of our rivals’ crashes," they said. 

"We wish that events like those that happened today help us reach, for the benefit of all, a sole set of criteria, both for teams and race commissaires, on how to proceed when such situations arise."

López

López had been the most vocal critic of Movistar's actions at the finish in Toledo, but later apologised publicly to the team and to Valverde for his choice of words. 

"It's always the same stupid people who do this. Maybe one day they'll win a race launching a straight attack," he'd said.

"These really stupid actions are what the world champion's team does - that's what we're dealing with. What a world champion we have!"

On Friday evening, he took to social media to back-track on his comments.

"More than one will not follow what happened at the Vuelta. I'm sorry... It was said in the heat of the moment in the race and with the pain of the crash," he wrote.

 "All my most sincere apologies to Alejandro Valverde and Movistar Team."