Being Tour de l’Avenir champion brings with it a certain level of attention and expectation. Suddenly your name is known and people are watching your every move, eager to ascertain if and when you’ll show signs of morphing into ‘the real deal’.
The title helped earn Miguel Ángel López a professional contract at WorldTour level with Astana, but the Colombian has had a quiet start to the season. He raced at his national championships in February before bowing out of the Volta a Catalunya in late March on the fifth stage – his first race in the light blue of the Kazakh team.
But on stage six of the Tour of Turkey, on the category-one climb to the summit finish at Selcuk, the 21-year-old sparked into life. Attacking from three kilometres out, he sprung clear and made his way up the hillside with Quintana-esque poise.
It wasn’t to be, though, as Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros) bridged across, rode in his wheel and made the most of his sharper sprint in the final 50 metres.
“I’m very happy with my ride,” López told Cyclingnews after he crossed the line. “I’m happy to have climbed so well, but also I guess a bit disappointed. I felt good and attacked with three kilometres to go, but I hadn’t realised quite how hard it would be at the end, so I didn’t quite have enough.
“That’s cycling – you have to learn to win and you have to learn to lose. I wanted to win but that’s how it is – a bit disappointing.”
The stage will form part of a wider learning curve for López, who is known as ‘Superman’ after fighting off thieves who were after his bike and who stabbed him in the leg five years ago. Despite the nickname, he admits he can’t do everything just yet, and that he is only in the early stages of a long learning curve.
“Winning the Tour de l’Avenir has given me a lot of confidence going into professional cycling, but at the same time there’s much development ahead,” he told Cyclingnews.
“The season has started really well; it’s still one of my first races so we’re taking it step by step and gaining rhythm day by day. But up to now it’s all been good. It has just been a case of small steps, building my capacity and my fitness, and race fitness, too. I’ve learnt a lot already being with the team.”
López signed with Astana in September, as the positive doping tests in the WorldTour and Continental set-ups continued to roll in and before the WorldTour license issue blew up. With all that controversy in the air, it can’t have been the most pleasant way to start life as a pro, but López insists he has had no second thoughts.
“I’m very happy with my decision,” he said. “As it is, these things are fine now, everything has been resolved, so there’s no problem there. I’m really happy with the team.
“It didn’t affect my at all really – we all continued training well. It was more a matter for the team’s management but in the end everything worked out fine.”