Miguel Angel Lopez finished the 2019 Giro d'Italia in Verona with mixed emotions. On one hand, the Colombian had defended his white jersey as the race's best young rider, and the team had taken three stage wins along the way, thanks to his Astana teammates Pello Bilbao and Dario Cataldo. But on the other, Lopez's seventh place overall was some way off his third place of last year.
Bad luck was to blame for that, according to both Lopez and Astana team manager Alexandr Vinokourov.
Following a very promising fourth place in the opening time trial in Bologna, Lopez kept pace with the other race favourites through the first week, but his woes started during the race's second time trial – stage 9 from Riccione to San Marino – with the 25-year-old getting a puncture soon after the start of the stage. After that, Lopez never really got back into his rhythm, finishing down in 42nd place, 3:45 behind then leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
A disappointed Lopez nevertheless went on to have a strong second half of the race, capturing the white jersey that he'd won at last year's Giro on stage 16 of this year's race to Ponte di Legno, where he moved up on the GC from 10th to seventh.
The biggest talking point of Lopez's Giro, however, came late in the race, on the race's penultimate stage: stage 20 from Feltre to the top of the Croce d'Aune.
It was on the final climb to the finish that an overenthusiastic spectator managed to knock Lopez off his bike, which provoked a flurry of punches from the shocked and angry Lopez, before he remounted and rejoined the race, but lost almost two minutes to the group of overall contenders.
Controversially, Lopez received no punishment from the race jury for his physical reaction to the hapless roadside fan, while on the same stage, Roglic was handed a 10-second penalty for having received helpful pushes on the climb by more enthusiastic fans.
"It was a very difficult race for me, and I had a lot of bad luck during these three weeks," said Lopez via his team's website. "Indeed, in the most important moments of the race, I've missed a bit of luck, and it impacted a lot on my performance here.
"But I can be happy with my form, built for the Giro, and I was on a very good level, but I'm sure I could have got more from this race. I'm happy with the white jersey, which is a nice to win for the second year in a row. Now, I'm looking forward to some rest at home with my family before setting new goals with the team," he said.
"I think we had a very solid Giro d'Italia," added team general manager Alexandr Vinokourov. "We came here with the goal of fighting for the general classification and we had everything we needed to do that: a strong leader and a very good team.
"Unfortunately, bad luck at a few key moments ruined Miguel Angel Lopez's chances of reaching the podium or, even, to win this race. But he still won the white jersey, which is a great result, too. We're also really happy with the team's performance here and with our three stage victories from Pello Bilbao and Dario Cataldo," he continued, referring to the two from Spanish rider Bilbao on stages 7 and 20, and by Italian Cataldo, who took victory on stage 15.
"We experienced a number of beautiful moments at this Giro," said Vinokourov. "However, the season is far from over, we still have some important goals to reach, and we're looking forward to the second part of the year."
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