Controversy reigned on Stage 19 at La Vuelta after Movistar pounced on a crash involving Primoz Roglic to eat into his GC advantage – a decision that prompted strong opinions both for and against the Spanish team.
A pedestrian ride from Avila to Toledo burst into life when Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) hit a wall with approximately 66 kilometres remaining.
With the race leader awaiting assistance, Movistar appeared to ignore convention and maintained their pace, pushing their riders Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana closer to the virtual red jersey.
Roglic quickly rejoined proceedings but was left isolated in huge sidewinds as another Grand Tour collapse suddenly looked a potential reality.
But as a sportsmanship storm brewed, Valverde belatedly sat up at the front of the pack and allowed the Slovenian to come back.
The crash forced Roglic’s teammate Tony Martin to retire from the race, while Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) was also caught up in the incident.
Lopez led the fury towards Movistar afterwards, saying they "always behave like idiots" and provocatively asked whether he would see a day when they "win a race with their heads held high".
Were Movistar right to attack after Roglic crash?
Wiggins v Kelly: Clash of opinions over Movistar tactics
Bradley Wiggins speaking immediately after the incident on Eurosport:
They [Movistar] wouldn’t have necessarily been aware that Roglic was caught up in that crash until all the pandemonium had settled down. It’s a gentleman’s agreement, if the leader’s jersey goes down in any race, you call if off. No one wants to profit through someone else’s bad luck.
Sean Kelly, in response on Eurosport commentary:
I don't agree. We have the radios to the riders. It was immediately known that Roglic was on the ground, that would get around very quickly. They [Movistar] pushed on for 15 kilometres at least. They thought they might really cause damage in the side winds, but when they considered the position of the race they knew it was going to be difficult to make huge gains. I definitely think there will be a lot of riders not happy.
Wiggins continues to back Movistar
Wiggins then doubled down on his defence of Movistar, saying their plan was always to attack from that point in the race and instead questioned Roglic's tactics.
"It’s a funny one. You have to take the racing on that point until you get clarification of what’s going on behind because the race stops for no one until you realise. That can take a few kilometres," he said on The Breakaway.
"It’s not their fault that a crash has happened. There’s a reason Valverde wasn’t in the crash. Why’s that? Because he was in the front.
"How many Movistar riders were in the crash? They all seemed to be in the front with both their leaders and Roglic, who we’ve said is quite raw, has been very badly positioned on a lot of occasions."
The Breakaway: In defence of Movistar
'They always behave like idiots' - riders react
Miguel Angel Lopez, who finished 19th despite being caught up in the crash, via Spanish broadcaster RTVE:
I think it was very bad of them, a complete lack of respect with the red jersey and the rest of us. Around 20 riders or more were on the ground and they always take advantage of this kind of moments. This isn't the first time, we have already seen in other moments and in other races that they always behave like idiots, it is always the same people that do this kind of thing. That is their way of being and we all know that they are like this. I want to see a day Movistar win a race with their heads held high.
'It's not a classy thing to do in my eyes' - Doull unimpressed with Movistar
Team Ineos rider Owain Doull:
I didn't see what was going on. I guess it depends if they [Movistar] were riding beforehand. If they weren't, then that's shocking. Every man and his dog knows the leader of the race has gone down with his whole team. It's not a classy thing to do in my eyes. And it's not like they did it for a few kilometres and then sat up. They were at it for a good while. If I was Roglic, I would not be happy. I wasn't happy anyway and it had nothing to do with me!
Bora's Sam Bennett, who finished second behind Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck–Quick-Step):
That wasn't right, that wasn't nice.
'That wasn't right' - Bennett on Movistar attack
'No way a means of taking advantage' - Movistar apology
Later on Thursday evening Movistar released their own statement.
In it they apologised and said they were not trying to take advantage of the situation.
They also said that they hoped the incident would lead to clear rules on what to do in such an event.
The Movistar Team would like to apologise for the events that happened during today’s #LaVuelta19 stage. Our way of proceeding followed exclusively the strategy we had outlined before the race, and was in no way a means of taking advantage of our rivals’ crashes.
We wish that events like those happened in #LaVuelta19 today help us reach, for the benefit of all, a sole set of criteria, both for teams and race commissaires, on how to proceed when such situations arise.