Lopez hoping to limit Giro d'Italia time trial losses to two minutes

'No distractions' for Colombian after birth of first child

Colombia’s Miguel Angel López (Astana Pro Team) rolls the question around for a fair length of time before answering, but eventually he replies: "I hope it won’t be more than two minutes."

That is the total time that López currently calculates he would ideally like to lose to the expert time triallists of the calibre of Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) in the three races against the clock that feature in the Giro d’Italia this year.

"It’s hard to say, I’ve worked a lot on my time trialling, but I’m hoping it won’t be any more than two minutes," López told reporters at his pre-race press conference on Thursday.

"I’m not too afraid of the TTs, because the first one’s not too hard for me, then there’s the second, which has a lot of rolling terrain as well."

As for the third, which also has a climb, López will once again be hoping not to lose out after the most successful 12 months of his career.

Last May he quietly claimed third overall in the Giro d’Italia. It was his first Grand Tour podium position but, media-wise, that achievement was largely overlooked given the massive ongoing battle between Dumoulin, Chris Froome and Simon Yates for the top two podium spots.

However, López pressed on with a third overall in the Vuelta a España later in the year, becoming the only rider alongside Froome and Dumoulin to podium on two different Grand Tours last year. He then claimed the Tour Colombia 2.1 in February and the Volta a Catalunya this March, his first major week-long victory since the Tour de Suisse in 2016. Add in an extremely mountainous Giro d’Italia in 2018 and an all-conquering Astana Team this spring, and the packed press conference on Thursday confirmed that a lot of the media feel it would be more than unwise to rule López out of the running in 2019.

As for the man himself, who is never averse to a well-honed cliché or three, López told reporters: "We’ve prepared well and we’ve got a strong team. I did a great job training up over the off-season and I did well in Paris-Nice and Catalunya. I just want to be at 100 per cent."

The biggest change to López's approach to the Giro d’Italia is probably that last year he did the Tour of the Alps immediately beforehand, winning a stage and finishing third overall. This time around, with the first major mountain stage much later in the race than in the 2018 Giro - when Mount Etna loomed into view on stage 5 and the Gran Sasso on stage 9 - he is taking a much more softly-softly approach, with his last race dating back to the Volta a Catalunya in March. Since then, it’s been all about the Giro.

With that in mind, López has checked out a lot of the Giro d’Italia stages, including the time trials and focusing in particular on the last week. But a lot of his month-long spell without racing has been spent in Colombia with his family. As the father of a recently born child - the huge grin that crossed his face when a journalist mentioned the fact indicated just how important becoming a first-time dad was to him - that’s only to be expected.

"It’s difficult to be here after the birth of my child, but it’s my job and I’m getting a lot of support from Colombia," López pointed out.

However, he was insistent that accusations that he could sometimes get distracted from his job and pay a high price for it were baseless.

"There are no distractions, nothing is perfect, but every race I try to learn more, gain more experience," he concluded.

Taking another top result in the Giro, of course, would be another major step towards cementing López's position at the top of the international peloton.

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