TOLEDO, Spain (Reuters) – Movistar Team were roundly criticized after they attacked during stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana in the immediate aftermath of race leader Primoz Roglic’s accident.
Roglic was involved in a mass crash just over 100km into the 165km stage from Avila to Toledo, with fourth-placed Miguel Angel Lopez also involved.
Both riders came off their bikes during the incident which saw Roglic’s team mate Tony Martin forced to withdraw from the race. Movistar’s second-placed Alejandro Valverde and third overall Nairo Quintana attacked moments later, much to the annoyance of the peloton.
“It’s a massive lack of respect towards the red jersey. Around 20 or more of us crashed and they’re always the ones who try to take advantage of these kind of situations,” an angry Lopez told Spanish television.
“It’s not the first time and we’ve seen them do stupid things like this in other races. It’s always the same idiots who do these things. It’s just the way they act and we know they do it. It’s what the always do.”
Cycling etiquette dictates that if the race leader suffers an accident or mechanical they should be allowed to rejoin the peloton with no attacks permitted. Eventually, some 15km after attacking Alejandro Valverde indicated to his team mates they should slow down to allow Roglic and Lopez back into the fold.
Movistar’s Sporting Director Jose Luis Arrieta defended his team’s actions, insisting they were far ahead at the time of the crash.
He then suggested the sport’s governing body, the UCI, had incorrectly allowed Roglic and Lopez to return to the peloton by getting in the slipstream of team cars, something which under normal circumstances is not permitted.
Earlier, Irish rider Sam Bennett, who came second in the stage, described their actions as “not right, not nice.”
Owain Doull of Team Ineos said: “It’s not like they did it for a few kilometers and then sat up, it was pretty divided for a while. If I were Roglic and Jumbo I wouldn’t be happy. I’m not happy and it had nothing to do with me.”
Eibar midfielder Pedro Leon, brother of Lopez’s Astana team mate Luis Leon, who finished 34th on the stage, wrote on Twitter that it was “the most shameful sporting act I have ever seen,” before deleting the post.
He later explained that he removed the Tweet due to accusations of bias towards his brother, adding: “I didn’t delete it because I don’t believe it, rather I completely believe what I said, it was improper.”
Former Spanish riders Oscar Pereiro and Joaquim Rodriguez also criticized Movistar’s actions on other media platforms.
(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Christian Radnedge)