Miguel Ángel López has apologised for quitting the Vuelta a España after being dropped on stage 20 and subsequently losing a near-certain podium spot.
A drama-filled penultimate stage ended in horror for the Colombian who, despite starting the day third with a very healthy buffer of 1-43 to Jack Haig in fourth, was unable to jump across to a select group of general classification favourites after the race ignited with 60km to go.
The distance between López's group and the one he was chasing - which contained race leader Primož Roglič and his own Movistar teammate Enric Mas - quickly stretched out to an unbridgeable one.
With around 20km left to go, race radio reported López's abandonment, but with no apparent injury spectators and even his team were left puzzled at the decision.
The 27-year-old told Spanish radio. "Why did I abandon? We’re humans, not machines.
“At times we’re made of flesh and bone. What remains is asking forgiveness to team and fans. It was a mistake to not finish.”
Later, in a statement released by his team, he elaborated on the incident. "As most of you have seen, the moment when the group split was a difficult situation, hard to resolve.
"We saw ourselves getting into a difficult position when some of the best in the GC went ahead of us: Bahrain played its cards well, and it's hard to close a gap like that, even if it's small, at this point of the Vuelta.
"Legs are so tired, the level is so high, and obviously no-one was going to help us out closing that small gap in that moment. It took long for us to react.
"There were so many factors involved and, in the end, it's sad to see La Vuelta ending for me this way."
With Mas comfortably in second and López seemingly assured of third up until Saturday, it had looked like being a successful Vuelta for Movistar, with López's summit finish win atop Alto d'El Gamoniteiru another highlight.
More impressive was that the Spanish outfit had achieved so much while riding with just five riders after three riders previously abandoned.
It is that regret that pain López who added: "I want to apologise to my teammates. We are a reduced group, only five left in La Vuelta, with only three of them focussed on team duties, and they rode their hearts out for us, they give their 100 per cent.
"It's been a tough situation, but it ended up happening like that. I decided to stop fighting a battle which was all but lost. Now I just want to say to the fans, the sponsors, the La Vuelta organisers – I'm sorry for what happened and for how things went today."
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