Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) criticized Mitchelton-Scott for their "failure" to chase down Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) when the Frenchman made a long-distance attack during stage 11 of the Vuelta a Espana on Wednesday, threatening the race lead of Simon Yates.
In the second half of a hilly 200km stage, Valverde's Movistar team did the bulk of the work to keep a 20-rider break including Pinot under control.
Already the winner of two stages in this year's Vuelta, the Spaniard is lying one second behind Yates in the overall standings, whilst his Colombian teammate Nairo Quintana is in third place, 14 seconds down.
"Mitchelton don't work [to bring back breaks] because that's not their philosophy," Valverde claimed to a group of Spanish-speaking media after the stage.
"They only work when they want to do harm, but when it's to defend a lead, it's hard to see them do that. The only team that worked to pull back the breakaway has been us."
Valverde's teammate Quintana was somewhat milder in his criticisms but also commented that "[Mitchelton-Scott] were always on our wheels. That's the way they work."
Speaking separately in his press conference, Simon Yates had analysed how different GC teams had worked during the stage, saying that "if Movistar chased, it's because they have to… they have the best two guys."
Yates also pointed out that Mitchelton-Scott had worked hard to control a very difficult start for the first 100 kilometres of the stage, that they lacked the manpower to keep the peloton under control for 200 kilometres - the Vuelta's longest stage - and said that letting Pinot go was a calculated risk.
Valverde, meanwhile, claimed that Movistar had "saved the day" and that Pinot is a "difficult" rider to handle.
"He's still got options in the overall," added Quintana. "We controlled things the best we could."
Movistar teammate Winner Anacona, the team's sole representative in the break, said it was the most complicated day at the Vuelta so far.
"There were 100 kilometres of attacks and more attacks and then even afterwards, it was still pretty tough," he said.
Anacona argued that it was not a mistake to let Pinot go, because the Frenchman would have worked hard in the break and used up a lot of energy, which could cost him dearly further down the line.
"It was an impressive attack, but the important thing is that both Nairo and Alejandro were both fine, and further down the line when we get to the mountains we'll see them back in the thick of the action again."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 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. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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