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Giro d'Italia leader López insists Ciccone remains his team's GC option

Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) on the podium after stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia
Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) on the podium after stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images)

Bike racers are famous for taking things strictly 'on the day by day', and to judge by Juan Pedro López's comments after stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia, that applies to the current overall leader of the GC right now just as much as anybody else.

"I'm so happy being in the lead, I can't even remember how many days I have spent in pink now, is it three or four?" the Giro d'Italia's maglia rosa asked reporters after stage 7.

For the record, the Trek-Segafredo racer has now remained in the lead for four straight days and survived Friday's long, hot, grind through the mountains of the Basilicata - by far the toughest day of his jersey defence. There is no clear end date to his tenure.

After such a strong ride on Friday, Sunday's ascent Blockhaus is the logical point where López could crack. But memories of how an equally unknown João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) took the lead on Etna two years ago and defended it for well over two weeks are too fresh in the Giro's collective memory to ignore the possibility of López doing the same.

"Things are not changing, the long-term objectives of the team are clear," López insisted after stage 7. "If I have to work for [team leader and GC contender] Giulio Ciccone tomorrow [Saturday] and on Sunday, then I don't have a problem with that."

However, López added that he had "no idea" how long he could stay in pink, while recognising that "the overall contenders can really make a big difference on the Blockhaus."

"Today worked out fine," he said, with the worst moment a puncture that left him vulnerable just as the main bunch were tackling the first big climb of the day, the Monte Sirino.

"We had a plan and it worked out, which doesn't always happen. I didn't know the climbs, just from looking at the route book this morning, so I was taking the stage as it came.

"But in the bus in the morning, we decided we wanted to get Bauke [Mollema, teammate] in the break because that meant we didn't have to take so much responsibility behind. And that's what happened."

With or without Mollema ahead, López's game plan was relatively straightforward: stick as close as possible to the rider closest to him on the overall, Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) for as long as possible.

"I was with him pretty much the whole day," López insisted. "But although today was a very hard day, Sunday is a much better one for the GC contenders because it's got a summit finish."

López continuing spell in the pink jersey meant that the local media continued with their relentless pursuit of new fun facts about the little-known Giro leader. Today's 'big' revelation, to their delight, was that he speaks more than a little Italian, and that López will not have any problems with the minor heatwave currently affecting the race.

"I'm from the south of Spain, a place where we have to put up with 40 degrees in the shade in the summer," Lopez said, "so that doesn't affect me much." But as for the climbs the Giro will tackle on Sunday, who knows?

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.