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Giro d'Italia

Juan Pedro López on Giro d’Italia pink journey: ‘This is the first day in my life I rode as a leader’

The 24-year-old continues his run in the pink jersey and hopes to hold it for a few more days at least.

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REGGIO Emilia, Italy (VN) — Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) is growing into his role as race and team leader at the Giro d’Italia.

The Spaniard was unexpectedly thrown into the spotlight at the Italian grand tour after taking the race lead in a breakaway on stage 4 to Mount Etna. As Trek-Segafredo’s GC hopes have slipped away with Giulio Ciccone and Mattias Skjelmose, López has been further thrust into it.

Having only taken one pro victory in his two and a half years as a professional, López has never been in this position before. At first, he seemed unsure of himself in the pink jersey and how he should take control of both his team and the wider peloton.

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However, after seven days in the maglia rosa, López says that he finally feels like a leader and that he’s now able to behave like one.

“Today is the first day in my life that I was able to ride as a leader. I was able to tell my teammates to go to the right or the left. Sometimes, I am a little bit nervous because I want to stay more in the front but my teammates helped me a lot,” López said after stage 11. “Also, Otto Vergaerde did an amazing job. He said to me that you need to stay in my wheel, and we will stay together. He did a really good job.”

López maintained his 12-second lead in the overall classification in a sometimes-chaotic stage 11 of the Giro. What was supposed to be a straightforward sprint day turned out to be more complicated with winds blowing the peloton apart at times.

The 24-year-old kept his cool but was unable to prevent Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) from taking some bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint and going level on time with João Almeida at 12 seconds back.

“I saw Richard Carapaz looking for a time bonus in an intermediate sprint, but I am not as fast as him. There was nothing I could do,” he said.

López wasn’t expected to keep his pink jersey this long but a stern defense of his race lead on the stage 9 summit finish to Blockhaus gave his stint in pink some new life. The Giro can throw up all manner of surprises but he should have at least two more days at the top of the overall standings.

While he is expected to eventually relinquish the pink jersey, the question remains if he can hold onto the coattails of the big favorites and ride to Verona with a solid result to show for it. Every day he manages to stay in pink increases his chances of at least bettering his 13th place at last year’s Vuelta a España.

López is trying not to think too much about the end result, and he is just enjoying his moment in the limelight.

“I don’t know if I feel more confident [about his GC chances] or not but for sure I give every day 100 percent and my teammates also give 100 percent. It’s amazing and I really enjoy all of the days that I am in the pink jersey,” López said.

“In any case, I am very happy to keep the pink jersey for at least one more day. My teammates have done a great I work again today, always telling me what to do.”

If López wants to keep his pink jersey for another few days, he will have to be vigilant during Thursday’s 204km stage from Parma to Genova. While the climbs are only third category ascents, they still pose a danger, particularly the final one the Valico di Trensasco.

It could be a chance for a breakaway to succeed but it could also be a day similar to stage 10, which saw Biniam Girmay take the win after a very aggressive finale.

“We will see tomorrow what happens. For sure, now I only need to rest, have a good dinner and sleep well and tomorrow we will see what happens,” he said.