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'Rookie error' hurts López's Giro d'Italia white jersey hopes

Juan Pedro López moved into the white jersey after Almeida's abandon on stage 18
Juan Pedro López moved into the white jersey after Almeida's abandon on stage 18 (Image credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Juan Pedro López inherited the best young rider's white jersey before stage 18 after João Almeida was struck by COVID-19 and left the race, but he and his Trek-Segafredo teammates were not happy post-stage after the young Spaniard was caught behind a split in the peloton in the final kilometres and lost 2:37 to rival Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious).

Team manager Luca Guercilena described it as a rookie error and was clearly unhappy that the time loss could mean López is unable to win the white jersey in Verona on Sunday to close the Giro d'Italia.

He now leads Buitrago by 5:11, with Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) at 6:46. They are arguably fresher and perhaps better climbers than the 24-year-old Spaniard for the tough stage to the Santuario di Castelmonte on Friday and then mountain finish at the Marmolada on Saturday.

López and Trek-Segafredo have enjoyed a hugely successful Giro d'Italia thanks to López but want to finish the race with the young Spaniard in the top 10 and with the white jersey. López led the Giro and wore the maglia rosa for 10 days after finishing second on Mount Etna, having been part of the successful breakaway. However, his efforts have left him fatigued as he tries to defend what he has carefully accumulated.

"It was a rookie error," Guercilena told Cyclingnews and the Cycling Podcast at the bus paddock beyond the Treviso finish area.

"It's fair to say that João Almeida was on course to win the white jersey but now that we've got it, it would have been better not to lose time. Unfortunately, everyone is tired and I think it was more about poor position than bad legs. I hope so."

Guercilena was not happy but promised not to raise his voice with his riders after three weeks of hard racing and López's 10 days in the maglia rosa.

"I won't start shouting but we'll clarify things with the riders. When we decide a strategy, it has to be followed," he said bluntly.

López was disappointed about the time loss but tried to stay optimistic.

"I'm happy to have the jersey. We'll defend it all the way to Verona and try not to give it away," he said in the mixed-zone after pulling on the special classification jersey.

"It was a fast, hard stage. I had a difficult moment, too, but all the team helped me to try to chase. We're still in the top 10 and that's an objective along with the white jersey.

"Now we've got the mountain stages on Friday and Saturday and we'll see who is feeling better."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.