It’s finally here, season three of the highly anticipated “Least Expected Day” Netflix series following the Movistar team around over the past year.
The overrunning theme across the first two series of cycling's answer to Eastenders was largely that having co-leaders at a Grand Tour rarely works. Not only does it create tension on the bike but also for the poor souls in the cars forced into the position of finely balancing the riders' egos as they look to guide their team to success.
After watching the first two series you warm to “Chente” Garcia Acosta and forgive him for all the over zealous shouting at the slightest prompt.
After all how could anyone not get frustrated with the strange dynamics within the squad? Eusebio Unzué is sat there in the background like poor Ian Beale, just hoping for an easy life until others decide to have their say and things get out of hand.
If those first two years were anything to go by, you would hope that Movistar would have learned their lesson although with the signing of Miguel Ángel López for the 2021 season it would appear not. The Colombian rider produced some big performances for the team but also brought the fireworks just as “Chente” and co would have been hoping for an easier year.
Just three minutes into the series and for those that don’t follow cycling all year round, you’ll soon realise it was anything but.
Luckily, if you’re not one for the tantrums and drama I watched series three of the Spanish soap opera so you don’t have to.
Here’s what I learned about Movistar's 2021 season
MARC SOLER WAS POORLY HANDLED IN THE TEAM
Marc Soler has been a huge talent for years within the sport ever since he first won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2015.
He then continued to progress at a rapid rate with all the makings of a successful Grand Tour winning rider. Add an overall win at Paris-Nice in 2018 and he was firmly on his way although it was unfortunate that everything fell into place around the same time that Mikel Landa, Nairo Quintana and Richard Carapaz were amongst the Movistar ranks. That’s without even mentioning Alejandro Valverde.
Since moving to UAE Team Emirates he seems like a new rider and all the better for it. The Spaniard admirably refused to speak ill of the Movistar team last month at the Vuelta a Espana although you would have forgiven him for doing so.
Never more so than when the team management were visibly frustrated with him in the documentary for not pushing through the pain at the 2021 Giro d’Italia.
Soler’s results should have earned him more of an opportunity and he has now already had that at the Spanish Grand Tour this year. A motivated Marc Soler is a guaranteed Grand Tour stage winner amongst other things.
UAE are very lucky to have him.
ALEJANDRO VALVERDE MIGHT AS WELL BE GOD IN PAMPLONA
Not many sports stars are still treated with almost Godlike status when they’re 41 years old. Except if their name is Alejandro Valverde.
Granted his career has been remarkable, and he deserves a huge amount of accolades, as well as acknowledgement of his doping ban, but you can’t help but feel that 2022 is calling time on proceedings a little too late. A little like ageing 1960s rock stars still churning out records just simply based on their name.
That isn’t to be disrespectful to the the four time Liège–Bastogne–Liège winner -Valverde is arguably one of the greatest racers of the last 20 years if you forget his involvement in the Operacion Puerto - but one can’t help but be left feeling that Movistar may have benefited more from coaching a rider like Soler more effectively as opposed to keeping an ageing “El Bala” going indefinitely.
SUPERMAN LÓPEZ HAS A BIGGER EGO THAN RONALDO
More often than not it’s footballers who receive the public scrutiny for having excessively big egos but the 2021 Vuelta showed that Miguel Ángel López has one to rival that of Manchester United's Portuguese star striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
Not many sportspeople simply refuse to keep going when things aren’t going their way, but that's exactly what ‘Superman’ did at the 2021 Spanish Grand Tour.
As the race was reaching its conclusion, the Colombian climbed off his bike and gave up after a spat with management as teammates were asked to work for Enric Mas instead of him.
The podium was slipping away from López but instead of continuing to ride for the team he appeared to give up.
In the aftermath of the incident 'Superman' revealed that tension had been building for some time between him and the rest of the group.
There are of course two sides to every story. Movistar have unfortunately built a reputation as being a squad full of strange tactics and dynamics which López fell foul of. However at times during the series he comes across as fiery and difficult to handle unlike the more gentle and softly spoken Enric Mas.
He just about redeems himself with an apology over dinner at the end…. Just.
MAS COULD HAVE WON THE 2021 VUELTA
Were it not for the drama, one thing that jumps out straightaway is that Enric Mas had the shape to have won the 2021 Vuelta a España.
He repeatedly had opportunities to push on and take hold of the race but was held back by the team's strange tactics and hissy-fits from López. Mas was once considered as being the next big thing in Spanish Cycling and 2021 could have been the year he finally delivered if it wasn’t for the drama within his team.
Throughout the series he comes across as mild-mannered, calm and dedicated. All the makings of a serious champion. You also wouldn’t blame him for ripping out his ear piece after being hammered by “Chente” on one particular stage.
Perhaps one day the climber from Arta will finally get his moment when everything falls into place.
VAN VLEUTEN SHOULD MANAGE THE MEN FOR A DAY
Instead of the gung-ho approach of ex-pros such as "Chente" Garcia Acosta, the men’s team would do well to have Annemiek van Vleuten managing them for a day.
Who else could possibly be better placed to share experience than the calm and collected multiple Grand-Tour winner? The episode which follows the women’s team around at the height of her 2021 season is undoubtedly the best and perfectly captures Van Vleuten’s character as an individual as well as a huge athlete.
The calmness, dedication and drive that saw her win the 2021 Tour of Flanders are instantly apparent.
Watching on you're also left feeling like it really is no surprise that she went on to win all three women’s Grand Tours in 2022.
Instead of arguing with management during his time at Movistar, López would have done well to take a leaf out of the Dutch rider's book instead.
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