After six years at Astana, Colombia’s Miguel Ángel López has signed for Movistar for 2021, considerably boosting the team’s stage racing prospects after a lacklustre year for Spain’s only WorldTour squad.
A talented climber and stage racer with success on numerous mountain-top finishes in his palmares, López won the toughest Alpine stage of this year’s Tour de France with a late attack on the exceptionaly difficult Col de la Loze.
Still only 26, Lopez has already notched overall triumphs in the Tour de Suisse, the Volta a Catalunya and the Colombia Tour, as well as the Tour de L’Avenir.
He was also on the final podium of both the Vuelta a España and the Giro d'Italia in 2018, and finished sixth in the Tour de France this autumn in his debut at the race.
Lopez was a strong candidate for the general classification in this year’s Giro but a high-speed crash in the opening time trial saw him quit the race almost before it had begun.
"I'm so happy to be part of one of the most important teams in the world of cycling," López, whose only previous professional team has been Astana, said in a Movistar press release.
"As I've always done, I'll try to achieve my fullest potential to represent the Movistar Team and the people of Colombia in the best possible way. This has always been a very significant team for my home fans and a crucial factor for the growth of the sport in Latin America, so I'm excited to join them next year."
López's signing had been strongly rumoured since early November, when the news was published by website Zikloland and it was reported that team manager Eusebio Unzue said earlier this week that the deal was "50 per cent certain."
López has been openly critical of Movistar in the past but realised he can have a Grand Tour leadership role in one of the biggest teams in the WorldTour peloton.
His transfer comes hard on the heels of the news that Astana have recently re-signed the Izagirre brothers, Ion and Gorka, as well as Spanish national champion Luís León Sanchez.
Historically strongest in stage racing and Grand Tours in particular, after Giro d'Italia winners Richard Carapaz and Nairo Quintana moved on, along with Mikel Landa, Movistar have relied heavily for results this season on their trio of Spanish leaders, Alejandro Valverde, Enric Mas and Marc Soler.
But although Soler took a spectacular lone stage victory in the first week of the Vuelta a España, the team's best GC finish in the Grand Tours were a relatively low-key fifth overall for Mas at the Tour and Vuelta.
Meanwhile, Valverde had his first full racing season without a win since he was a first year rider at Kelme way back in 2002. Movistar, albeit the winners of the team's prize in the Tour and Vuelta, have notched just two road wins all season, both thanks to Soler.
In the same press release, Unzue underlined both López's impressive palmares and his attacking style as a racer. It is not yet clear if the López contract with Movistar is for more than a single year.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 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. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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