Movistar have the leader’s jersey and two riders in the top four at the Vuelta a España, but question marks over the harmony in the team have been present since the start of the race and intensified on stage 9 when Marc Soler protested at team orders.
Soler was alone at the head of the race on the final climb of an explosive mountain stage in Andorra, but was ordered to stop and wait for Nairo Quintana, who was riding clear of his rivals for the overall title.
Soler shook his head as he received the orders from the team car through his earpiece, and waved his arms in remonstration. Though the frustration was clear to see, he nevertheless obeyed and pulled Quintana to the final kilometre, with the Colombian missing out on the stage win but taking the red jersey.
Soler, a former winner of the Tour de l'Avenir, came into the race behind Quintana and Alejandro Valverde - now fourth overall - in the Movistar pecking order, but still with some protection as a GC rider. However, he lost nearly 10 minutes in Calpe on stage 2.
As such, Movistar's own director, the former pro Pablo Lastras, said the 25-year-old had a lot to learn.
“The images are there, we’re not going to deny what’s clear to see. We have to take responsibility and clear things up," Lastras told Marca.
"The Calpe stage he lost a fair bit of time and so we said to him that he was switching to a different role. He clearly didn’t hear that so we’re going to have to explain it to him again.
“It’s good to have character but he has to start listening and maturing. If we want to make him a leader, he has to first be a domestique. If not, play him a tutorial and let him see what Miguel [Indurain] did for Perico [Pedro Delgado] and then what Perico did for Miguel. These guys lack understanding of cycling history.”
The Vuelta paused for its first rest day on Monday, and Soler took the opportunity ahead of a training ride to explain himself and apologise for his actions.
“We’ve spoken about it. Above all, I want to apologise to Movistar, to Nairo, and to the whole team. It won’t happen again. It was the heat of the moment. We came here to win the race with Nairo or Alejandro and that’s why we’re here. It won’t happen again," Soler said.
“I’d never been in a situation like that, and when you are, a lot of things run through your mind. It was the heat of the moment. When you think about it with a cool head, and you see all we’ve been doing and working towards since the first day, to try and claim victory with one of those two, then you regret it, that’s clear. That’s why I've apologised.”
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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