Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and Robert Stannard (Alpecin–Deceuninck) had a furious row during the early running of Stage 9 at La Vuelta.
Soler appeared to be aggrieved at the lack of cooperation as the day’s breakaway tried to form with 131km remaining on the run from Villaviciosa to Les Praeres – although he may have simply been angered by Stannard moving across his path.
Either way, the Spaniard was pictured gesticulating wildly at Stannard, pointing in frustration as his rival fired back in defence.
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“They’re arguing with each other. Spitting fire here,” cried Carlton Kirby on Eurosport commentary.
“Nobody’s happy with this and the work rate, it’s like: ‘come on, you do a little bit.’ ‘No, you do it!’"
Sixteen-time stage winner and 1988 Vuelta champion Sean Kelly added: “It’s tense here because everybody wants to be in the breakaway that gets away now.
“But they also want to conserve a bit of energy and not be the one who has to pull on the front.
“If you do that, when the next attack comes you’re not going to be able to react. That just brings out the tension.”
Soler was bidding to get in the breakaway again, having already won Stage 5 in Bilbao and finished runner-up behind Jay Vine (Alpecin–Deceuninck) on Saturday’s summit finish to Collado Fancuaya.
Eventually the pair settled their differences and resumed riding, although only Stannard made it into the day’s nine-strong break.
Deceuninck has two men in the break – Stannard and Jimmy Janssens – tasked with protecting team-mate Vine’s lead in the KOM competition.
Vine was unlikely to be allowed to target another stage win from the lead group after he doubled up in the mist on Stage 8 to move within 6’33” of Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) in the red jersey.
Instead, he sent his team-mates up the road to hoover up the lion’s share of mountain points to protect his lead, while he contemplated whether to lose time on purpose so he would be allowed off the leash by Quick-Step in future. Soler started the day as the closest challenger to Vine in the climbing competition, but dropped below Stannard after missing out on the split.
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