A furious Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) stormed to the Team Sky bus to demand an explanation after today’s Vuelta finish. The British squad attacked just as Valverde fell with around 20 kilometres to go until the final climb.
Despite a furious pursuit of the Sky-led echelon, Valverde finished 39th, losing 55 seconds to top favourites Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), as well as the overall lead.
Valverde told reporters that he believed his crash had been provoked by a Sky rider and that the peloton attacked just as the the crash happened. Sky later defended themselves, saying they had not known that Valverde had fallen and that it was in no way intentional.
Before going to the Sky bus, Valverde said “Sky formed an echelon and they’re perfectly within their rights to do that. I’m not cross that I lost the lead because of this, but because there was no respect.”
Followed by television cameras and reporters, Valverde weaved his way behind the line to the Sky bus, got off his bike and although visibly angry, he politely demanded an answer from Colombians Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran, currently engaged in their warm-down.
A member of Team Sky’s management then attempted to convince Valverde that the crash had not been intentional under any circumstances.
Speaking to the press, Team Sky director Nicolas Portal - a former teammate of Alejandro Valverde at Caisse d’Epargne - was clearly upset at the situation and said in no way had they tried to take advantage of the crash.
"I’m really, really unhappy at what happened, these people are my friends," Portal said. "Everybody was very nervous, Movistar, Katusha and I told my riders to be alert and watch out for any moves."
"Then when they [Sky] formed the echelon I saw there was a Saxo Bank rider on the ground [Nicki Sorensen] and a crash, but I didn’t see either Alejandro [Valverde] or Contador. I only found out later."
"I told Sky to continue with their work on the front but not to go all out because it was still quite a way to the foot of the final climb and we were waiting for others to come through."
When the crash happened Portal insisted, "the race was open, we attacked and then this happens. We didn’t want it to happen that way. It’s a very difficult situation...[but] I don’t think our riders were responsible for making Alejandro fall."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.