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Spanish newspaper El País reported Thursday afternoon that López will leave Movistar, and likely join Astana.
Without quoting sources, the paper said that lawyers are working out details for López to break a two-year contract extension signed in August, with Astana likely being his next team.
El País also reported that several riders will join Movistar in 2022, including promising young rider Iván Romeo, Oier Lazkano (Caja Rural), Alex Aranburu and Óscar Rodríguez (both Astana), as well as Gorka Izagirre (Astana) and Iván Sosa (Ineos Grenadiers).
The paper also said the team is working on a deal for Alejandro Valverde, who crashed out of the Vuelta in tears, to race in 2022.
What seems certain is that López is gone.
The report confirms an earlier story from La Gazzetta dello Sport saying that Astana is interested in bringing him back. López turned pro with the team in 2015 and left at the end of 2020 to join the Spanish WorldTour team.
The news is the latest twist for López following his unprecedented departure from the penultimate stage in the Vuelta, when he started the stage third overall but was gapped late in the stage when he could not follow attacks from Bahrain Victorious and Ineos Grenadiers.
For 2022, the Kazakh-backed team will see the return of manager Alexander Vinokourov, and many of the team’s top riders are off-contract at the end of this season, so there would be space. Vincenzo Nibali, who raced in Astana colors from 2013-16, is also linked to a deal to return to Astana.
Astana co-sponsor Premier Tech is leaving the team at the end of the season, and some media reports suggest it could link up with Qhubeka, perhaps bringing some of the team’s riders and staff with it.
- Movistar could revisit contract extension with Miguel Ángel López
- Commentary: López will regret Vuelta exit
- How Óscar Pereiro laid the trap that caught out López
Astana, meanwhile, still has a handful of riders under contract, and confirmed this week that Alexey Lutsenko will remain with the team through 2024.
La Gazzetta dello Sport also reported that Joe Dombrowski, off contract at UAE Emirates this year despite winning a stage at the Giro d’Italia, could also join Astana. Last week, Dombrowski told VeloNews during the Vuelta that he was considering a few options, but that he had not yet signed a contract for 2022.
Also read: Close call for Dombrowski
López, meanwhile, has not spoken to the media since the weekend, and Spanish media reported he did not attend the team’s post-Vuelta dinner celebration in Santiago de Compostela after teammate Enric Mas finished second overall.