Lopez will be a team leader at Astana in 2018, says Vinokourov

Astana manager says Colombian needs time, experience to be Grand Tour winner

Although Jakob Fuglsang has stated that he intends to target the Tour de France next season, Astana manager Alexander Vinokourov says that the young Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez will be a team leader for a Grand Tour next season, and insists that injury and illnesses have masked the 23-year-old's true potential.

Lopez raced a truncated season after breaking his leg in a training accident a year ago, but still scored stage wins in the Tour of Austria and Vuelta a Burgos before taking out two stage wins and the best young rider classification in the Vuelta a Espana.

"Miguel is a very talented cyclist with great potential," Vinokourov told El Tiempo. "In addition, he is still very young and he has so much of his career ahead of him. Unfortunately, so far, some health problems, injuries have not allowed him to fully show his potential. But, this season already showed what high level can reach."

The result confirmed to Vinokourov that Lopez has the potential to win a Grand Tour.

"He has everything he needs to do so: talent, perseverance, fighting spirit, climbing skills and a strong time trial, he just needs time and experience," Vinokourov said. "He already did the Vuelta a España, and, speaking of the Giro and the Tour, he has to try at least to make his debut in these races.

Astana is waiting until the route for the Giro d'Italia is unveiled on November 29 and later the course for the Vuelta a Espana before deciding on the race programme for Lopez, but assured that he will lead the team in a Grand Tour next year.

Vinokourov is confident that, if he can remain healthy, Lopez is ready to produce excellent results. "We can all see that Miguel is ready for great results; In this season he showed that he is very strong in the mountains and is not afraid to compete with the best riders in the world. When all the health problems are solved, the great results will come, surely yes."

Most Colombians excel at climbing but lag behind riders like Chris Froome when it comes to time trials. Vinokourov also saw issues with Lopez' injuries hampering his progress against the clock but is sure he can progress.

"I do not think it's a long-term problem, his biggest problem at the moment is his youth and a certain lack of experience. In addition, during the last season, he did not have much chance of working on his time trialling due to the injury. When everything returns to normal, we will see the progress of the Colombian at this stage, I am sure of that."
 

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