Miguel Ángel López (Movistar) leads the chase group after missing out on the decisive GC move on stage 20 of the Vuelta a España.

López’s coach explains the tricky situation behind his Vuelta withdrawal

Rafa Acevedo, also the rider’s father-in-law, said of Movistar: "if they didn't want him on the podium, they didn't want him on the race".

by Kit Nicholson

photography by Getty Images

In the aftermath of the unusual drama surrounding Miguel Ángel López at the end of stage 20, his coach and father-in-law, former cyclist Rafa Acevedo, added a raw and personal angle to the saga.

What he had to say sheds some light on the team dynamics after López was caught behind a split with Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), while his teammate Enric Mas made it up the road with the red jersey, ultimately finishing almost seven minutes ahead of what remained of López’s group.

“I think that Egan at that time was no longer a danger to anyone,” Acevedo told Colombian newspaper El Espectador, “but it was more dangerous that Miguel Ángel might do well against the clock [on Sunday’s stage 21 ITT] and take second place from Mas, but hey, I think I’m speculating. Miguel called my daughter crying, it doesn’t seem fair to me. This does not take the queen stage away from him, I think that it is necessary to reflect. Let’s see what comes in the future.”

Immediately following his withdrawal, the stage 18 winner was seen speaking on the phone while getting into the team car, and we now know that his wife was on the other end.

“My daughter called him on the cell phone of the physical trainer who rides in the car with the coach,” Acevedo confirmed. “She said that he was crying with desolation, despair and knowing that after three weeks he had not met his goal of being on the podium after team orders.”

Acevedo reaffirmed what has already been suggested: López was ordered by team staff to stop chasing; to protect his teammate’s second place overall even if it meant sacrificing his own podium position.

Where it all changed…Ineos Grenadiers lit the fireworks that changed the GC picture on stage 20.

“What my daughter tells me: Yates starts, Miguel goes after him, Egan starts, he goes for him,” Acevedo explained. “And there comes the backlash from Yates. Miguel was going to Egan’s wheel, which obviously slows down, loses momentum and when he starts to chase they tell him not to. Eusebio Unzué [Movistar general manager] himself passed in the car and through the door he began to yell at him…that made his cup overflow.”

With so little left of the stage, not to mention the Vuelta as a whole, it’s easy to question the sense in abandoning when López did. It seems now that the reason is rooted in emotion, passion and perhaps even a sense of betrayal.

“I think he did have legs to get there and obviously he had a way to go, but unfortunately Miguel was not on the right wheel,” Acevedo said. “If the boss tells him not to do it, the boy reacted and after the altercation with Unzué he left. He said that if they didn’t want him on the podium, they didn’t want him on the race.”

In his position close to López, Acevedo was then asked if there was anything to be read into the Colombian’s future with Movistar.

“With ten days left for the Tour, they renewed him for two years,” Acevedo said, “these are things of heat, I hope they end on good terms. Both parties have a large share of responsibility for what happened. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I’m not the best person to say it.”

Cut to the coverage of stage 21 and Giuseppe Unzué himself chimed in with an intriguing stir of the pot. It wouldn’t be the first time a rider and team have parted ways prematurely, but it does at least sound like everyone’s blood pressure may be allowed to settle before career-defining decisions are made.

Needless to say, don’t expect this story to go away any time soon…

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