Two days after standing atop the podium after winning the queen stage of the 2021 Vuelta a España, Miguel Ángel López was off the podium and out of the race, having abandoned in circumstances not clear in the hours following stage 20.
The Colombian had been looking good for the third spot on the podium, behind team-mate Enric Mas in second place, in what was set to be a successful home Grand Tour for Movistar.
But then disaster struck, as Adam Yates counter-punched after Egan Bernal's attack during the final road stage before tomorrow's time trial, and López was caught sleeping, on the wrong side of a split in the GC group as Primož Roglič, Mas, Yates, and Jack Haig headed up the road without him.
The last name in that group was of particular concern, the Bahrain-Victorious rider in fourth at the start of the day and looking to somehow overturn his 1-43 deficit and sneak onto the podium in the Colombian's place.
López found himself without allies in the chase group, and although he tried to close the gap himself it soon yawned out to over five minutes, his podium hopes in tatters.
Then, in the closing kilometres, word came through that he had abandoned the race, before TV pictures caught him getting into the team, speaking on the phone to someone.
🔴¡Las imágenes de Miguel Ángel López subiéndose al coche del equipo Movistar para abandonar esta Vuelta! #VueltaRTVE4S El colombiano, en rebeldía, decidió abandonar la carrera pese a la insistencia de su jefe de filas Patxi Vila📹@villamorforever https://t.co/X7FzypTYD7 pic.twitter.com/oLthMVMoOxSeptember 4, 2021
Reports came in that when López stopped riding, Movistar's Head of Performance Patxi Vila had tried to convince him to continue, team-mate Imanol Erviti also arriving at the scene, but both were unable to get him to carry on.
Saga isn't over: according to Radio Marca journalist @JoanPrats360, Movistar has no idea where Lopez is right now. #LaVuelta21September 4, 2021
After the finish, a Spanish journalist for Radio Marca reported that the team said they did not currently know where their rider was.
Sources close to the rider told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that López stopped because he received orders to stop chasing in order to not harm Mas' place in the overall classification.
"They gave him the order not to chase. They did not want me to continue giving him and he did not like that," the source said.
"He got off [because of] his temper, because he didn't agree with the decision.
"He already spoke with the wife and that he told her. The support staff scolded him because he had been giving him[self] trying to get to the front group."
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