Lopez takes his first Grand Tour leader's jersey in the Vuelta a España

In a year where South American cycling is ruling the roost in the Grand Tours, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) continued the trend by taking the first leader's jersey of the Vuelta a España.

It has been a rollercoaster season for Lopez with victories in the Colombia Tour and Volta a Catalunya before a tumultuous Giro d'Italia, culminating in a scuffle with a fan on the side of the road.

However, his return to the Vuelta a España, a race where he has already taken two mountain-top stage wins in 2017 and finished third overall in 2018, has now seen him claim a career-first overall lead in a Grand Tour.

On a day when teams like Ineos did not perform as well as expected and others like Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates had tough stages with major falls, Astana delivered their leader to the line without any problems whatsoever.

"I'm very pleased with how this has worked out, I have to enjoy this moment. Finally, I'm the leader in a major tour," Lopez said.

"The Giro didn't work out so well, because of that problem with the fan. I was satisfied, all the same, because I gave it everything, but things didn't work out for other reasons."

Lopez said he had some minimal problems in the Vuelta's opening team time trial, such as when his chain came off briefly, but that he could save the day "in the best way possible".

"We have an advantage overall, but cycling's like that, sometimes you hit the jackpot, sometimes you get very unlucky. This time around it was others who had the misfortune, but we'll all exposed to that risk every day."

Lopez said he would try to defend the overall lead, but sai he did not want to get over-enthusiastic about doing so. "I've got this lead in the first day, so there's only 20 days left," he said with a chuckle. "We have to stay focused, be pleased with how we've started, but remember, too, that this is a race you have to win by getting through one day after another. Not just the first."

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