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Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) was gutted not to win stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia to Mount Etna but his disappointment soon turned to tears of joy when he realised he was the new race leader and would pull on the maglia rosa.

His strong and aggressive ride during the 170km stage from Avola to Mount Etna meant the 24 year-old Spaniard turned a moment of defeat into a moment of pure emotion, and a culmination of his three-year professional career. He has still to win a professional race since joining Trek-Segafredo in 2020 but now wears one of the most iconic jerseys in the sport and is likely to keep it for several days as the Giro d’Italia begins to ride north from Sicily and Calabria.

López earns the Whoop Giro d’Italia rider of the day because of the way he rode the stage and fought for his moment of glory. He made sure he was amongst the 14 riders that formed the decisive break and then encouraged his fellow adventurers to work hard to ensure they would be able to hold off the peloton on the 22.8km climb to the finish on the edge of the active volcano.

As the climb to the finish began, López did not panic when Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Fenix) got away alone. Following instructions from his directeur sportif in the Trek-Segafredo team car, he waited until the steeper mid-section and then used his climbing skills to dance on the pedals and catch Oldani. He then pressed on alone in pursuit of glory, with only Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) able to cross the gap and join him with 2.5km to race.

The two talented young riders rode to the finish together, any suggestion of a gentleman’s agreement to share the spoils cancelled by the way they both dived into the final corner.

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A touch of wheels benefited Kämna, who was in front, and he sprinted away to take his first stage win at the Giro d’Italia. López banged his handlebars in frustration and disappointment but his Trek-Segafredo team staff soon told him it was also his day. He had gained enough time on his rivals in the break to take the maglia rosa. His disappointment turned to tears of emotion.

“I tried to fight for the victory but it was so difficult but I have the jersey and I’m so happy now,” he said.

“I didn’t believe it when someone first told me I had the pink jersey. After 10 minutes I finally realised what it all means. Now I will enjoy it today, tomorrow. I don’t know how many days I will have, but I will enjoy every moment.”

Analysis

Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia was always going to be an opportunity for someone to take a career-changing moment of glory and the cycling gods opted to award the maglia rosa to Juan Pedro López.

The 24-year-old from Lebrija near Sevilla in the very south of Spain has been a professional rider with Trek-Segafredo since 2020. During his amateur career he won a stage of the 2019 Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta Mont Blanc but has still to win a professional race. However his career progression has been following as steep a learning curve as the road up Mount Etna.

In the last two years he helped his team leaders and learnt the skills to compete in the hardest, highest mountain stages. He finished 13th overall in the 2021 Vuelta a Espana and was third in the best young rider competition.

The logical next step was victory on a mountain stage. He went close on Mount Etna but was beaten by Kämna, who has taken his own route to success after doubts about his professional career in 2021. A spell in the maglia rosa for López will be arguably more rewarding that a single victory.

Remarkably he is only the 17th Spaniard to wear the Giro d’Italia leader’s jersey and is the youngest of them all. He follows on from Alberto Contador, who wore pink in the 2015 Giro d’Italia and went on to win the race.

“When Contador won here in 2011 I didn’t see it on television because I started cycling pretty late. Of course, I know about it from the media,” López said, honoured to follow in Contador’s footsteps.

López will wear the maglia rosa for the first time in the Giro d’Italia during Wednesday’s 174km fifth stage from Catania to Messina. He leads Kämna by a 39-second margin, with Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) third overall at 58 seconds.

That should be enough time to allow López to keep the Maglia Rosa until stage 7 to Potenza or even until the next mountain finish to Blockhaus on stage 9.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: Stephen Farrand
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