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CATANIA, Italy (VN) — Spain was back in the pink jersey Tuesday at the Giro d’Italia after an emotional performance from Juan Pedro López on the steep slopes of Mount Etna.
The Trek-Segafredo attacker finished second in the stage, but carved out enough time in the Giro’s first big breakaway to earn Spain’s first pink jersey since Alberto Contador last had it in 2015.
The 24-year-old López couldn’t stop crying as he celebrated the most important milestone of his young, promising career.
“It’s one of the most beautiful jerseys of my life and I have to enjoy it for as many stages as I have it,” López said. “It’s a dream coming true for me, and I want to really enjoy this for what it is. The objectives are clear, we have Ciccone, and when the time comes to work for him, that’s what I will do.”
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López has deep links to Contador, who won the Giro in 2008 and 2015.
In 2018 and 2019, he raced on Contador’s Kometa team before landed a gig in the WorldTour with Trek-Segafredo in 2020.
“To have the pink jersey like him – it’s a big emotion for me to wear this same jersey that [Alberto] Contador did,” López said.
The Spanish rider from Sevilla couldn’t hold back his emotion, and broke down in tears every time a journalist asked him a question.
Deep Spanish links to the pink jersey
López is the latest pink jersey for Spanish cycling that has a deep pedigree with the Giro.
He is the 17th Spaniard with the maglia rosa, and the youngest at the age of 24. And he’s the second Spanish rider from Andalucía, after Antonio Gomez dal Moral, to wear pink.
Miguel Indurain is the Spaniard with the most days in pink at 29. The last Spanish rider in the maglia rosa was Contador in 2015.
“I didn’t know the climb but my sport director did a very good job to inform me. He said, ‘try to go in the hardest part,’ and I did,” he said. “I felt strong when I was chasing Oldani down. We never know but I was confident.
“It took me a few minutes to realize that I was in the maglia rosa. Everyone tells me that Alberto Contador was the last Spaniard in the maglia rosa. I need to enjoy this moment.”
German rider Lennard Kämna spoiled the perfect ending by catching him with less than 3km to the Etna summit. The pair shared words and quickly made a pact. Drive it to the line, and the win for Kämna and the jersey for López.
López, however, pounded his fists on the handlebars, suggesting that he wanted more than pink.
“I am very happy to have this jersey,” said López, who’s never won a race but has hit a string of recent top results. “I attacked on the steepest part and tried to make the differences there. After Kämna caught me, we contested the sprint, but I didn’t win. It just didn’t happen.
“That was hard, but I have this jersey, and that’s something important,” he said. “I don’t know how many days I will have it but I am going to enjoy it no matter what.”
With a string of relatively easy transition stages, López could be in pink at least until stage 7.