Marc Soler has apologised for complaining about team orders on stage nine of the Vuelta a España.
The Spaniard’s discontent at being told by Movistar to wait for team-mate Nairo Quintana when he was at the front of the race was clearly picked up by television cameras. Soler threw his arms in the air when the message came through to him on race radio, continuing to shake his head as he reduced his speed and sat up.
“We’ve spoken about it. Above all, I want to apologise to Movistar, to Nairo, and to the whole team. It won’t happen again. It was the heat of the moment. We came here to win the race with Nairo or Alejandro and that’s why we’re here. It won’t happen again,” Soler told Spanish newspaper Marca.
Soler found himself in the lead with less than 5km to the summit finish. He had outlasted other members of the breakaway, including Ineos’ Tao Geoghegan Hart. Nairo Quintana jumped from the GC group with 13km remaining, before Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) joined him up the road. As the Colombian began to close the gap to Soler, the order came through for Soler to sit up to help his team-mate gain as big a time gap as possible.
As the Spaniard came into view of Quintana and Pogačar, the Slovenian attacked just before the juncture was made with less than 3km to the finish line, going on to take his first ever Grand Tour stage victory.
Movistar sports director Pablo Lastras did not mince his words when asked by Marca for his reaction to the incident.
“The images are there, we’re not going to deny what’s clear to see. We have to take responsibility and clear things up,” Lastras said.
“The Calpe stage he lost a fair bit of time and so we said to him that he was switching to a different role. He clearly didn’t hear that so we’re going to have to explain it to him again.
“It’s good to have character but he has to start listening and maturing. If we want to make him a leader, he has to first be a domestique. If not, play him a tutorial and let him see what Miguel [Indurain] did for Perico [Pedro Delgado] and then what Perico did for Miguel. These guys lack understanding of cycling history,” Lastras added.
Soler explained the incident as a “heat of the moment” mistake. “I’d never been in a situation like that, and when you are, a lot of things run through your mind. It was the heat of the moment. When you think about it with a cool head, and you see all we’ve been doing and working towards since the first day, to try and claim victory with one of those two, then you regret it, that’s clear. That’s why I’ve apologised,” he said.