After a hugely encouraging neo-pro season, Miguel Ángel López has no shortage of ambition as he looks ahead to 2016 and beyond.
The 2014 Tour de l'Avenir champion hopes to prove his mettle in his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España next season, and has stated his objective of winning all three of the three-week races before his career is over - a feat only ever achieved by six riders.
"The three Grand Tours have always captivated me, and my dream is to win all three one day. It's not impossible, it's difficult but it's a question of preparaing yourself," said the Colombian in a recent interview with Biciciclismo.
The confidence emanating from the 21-year-old comes from a formative season with Astana in the WorldTour. He was seventh overall among esteemed company at the Tour de Suisse, finishing fourth on the Rettenbach Glacier summit finish, before winning a stage at the Vuelta a Burgos and taking fourth overall.
"It's not bad for the first year," he said, slightly disappointed to have only strung together 34 race days. "Still, I was second in a stage in Turkey and I was among the best in Switzerland. That was really important and motivating, racing with [Thibaut] Pinot, who then won the queen stage at the Tour de France, and Geraint Thomas, the number one domestique for [Chris] Froome. If I put the effort in, it means I should be able to perform to this level in a Grand Tour."
López's three-week debut is set to come at the 2016 Vuelta a España, after outings at the Tour de San Luis, Volta a Catalunya, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and Tour de Romandie, among others. He hopes to be able to properly explore his potential in a race where Astana's two star GC riders, Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru, may not be present.
"The first thing on my mind is taking it easy, keeping that confidence that I've gained, and arriving with it at the Vuelta a España, which will be my main objective of the season. I should have freedom because in theory the two leaders of the team won't be there, and I want to make the most of it," said López.
"I have more confidence now, I'm no longer a newcomer. The WorldTour always demands respect but this year is different because of the experience of racing at the highest level this past year."
López is one of the latest riders off the conveyor belt of Colombian talent, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Urán, and Esteban Chaves. He looks around at his compatriots, and similarly at his teammate Aru, and draws much encouragement from the success they have enjoyed at a young age.
"Results show that young riders have been performing strongly lately - Nairo himself was already winning at 23. The aim is to grow little by little and I'm not sure if it will take two years or three to reach the level they're at right now. Nairo won the Giro at 25, Aru has also won a Vuelta at 25. I don't know if it will be sooner or later in my case, but the idea is exactly that."
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