López is technically unemployed as it stands, having seen his Movistar contract dissolved on October 1, a couple of weeks after he suddenly exited the Vuelta a España midway through stage 19.
However, once the parting of ways was agreed, a return to Astana Qazaqstan was engineered almost immediately, thanks to Alexandre Vinokourov's own return to the full role of team manager.
On Friday, the team announced a two-year deal, starting in January 2022, and López spoke of a "return home" to the team where he started his professional career in 2015.
"In the world of professional cycling, a rider who wants to keep on moving forward sometimes has to change something in his career, to gain new experience. Sometimes it is a good one, sometimes not," López said.
"The main thing is that I am coming home to my team, the team that gave me so much and with which, I am sure, we will be able to live many more wonderful moments."
López turned pro with Astana on the back of victory at the Tour de l'Avenir in 2014, and quickly established himself as a stage race and Grand Tour leader. He won the Tour de Suisse in 2016 and then won two stages and placed eighth overall at the 2017 Vuelta a España.
He went on to finish on the podium at both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España in 2018 and recorded top-10s at both in 2019, before marking his Tour de France debut in 2020 with victory on the queen stage atop Col de la Loze, although he lost his podium position after a disastrous final time trial.
Switching to Movistar, his season was delayed by COVID-19 but he bounced back to win the Ruta del Sol and Mont Ventoux Challenge. Crashes ruined his Tour de France ambitions and he went to the Vuelta, where he won the queen stage and was in a podium position, but that all came crashing down in ignominy two days from the end.
"Miguel Angel Lopez is a rider who grew up and achieved his greatest successes in our team, and therefore I am happy that after a short break he is making his return," said Vinokourov.
"Over the past year, Miguel Angel has gained serious experience, which, perhaps, he lacked in our team. I think that this experience, both good and not so good, will help him to continue his development. Lopez proved that he is still one of the strongest riders in the world, continuing to win at the highest level, so it is great that Miguel Angel will continue his career in Astana Qazaqstan Team."
López's return follows that of Vincenzo Nibali, who won the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia at Astana, while they have also signed Gianni Moscon from Ineos Grenadiers, and Joe Dombrowski and David de la Cruz from UAE Team Emirates). Key Kazakhstani rider Alexey Lutsenko has also been tied down to a new deal.
Elsewhere, the team are saying goodbye to co-title sponsor Premier Tech, and by extension to Jakob Fuglsang and Hugo Houle who head to Israel Start-Up Nation, while Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) and the Izagirre brothers are also moving on to Cofidis and Movistar.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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