Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) claimed the biggest victory of his young career when he bested the combined might of Quintana brothers Nairo and Dayer. At 21, and still a neo-pro in the second year of his career, Lopez showed great calm under pressure to get the jump on his two compatriots in the final kilometre.
Lopez knows the Quintana’s well, living not far from them in the Colombian capital of Boyacá and often training together but it didn’t make it any easier for him.
“It was difficult because it is the first race that I have ever gone head to head with both Quintanas,” Lopez said in his post-race press conference. “It was not a surprise to see them there and it was very difficult because both Nairo and Dayer are very strong. I was alone with the two of them so I had to pay a lot of attention. I am still young and I need to learn a lot but I think that I can continue to beat them.”
The result was also another show of strength from Colombian cycling and their climbing contingent with five making it into the top five on the stage and the overall classification. “We are proud of our country and we think that we open a lot of opportunities for the young generations.”
Lopez went into the day fifth in the general classification at 51 seconds down on the leader at the start of the day Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo Vital Concept). He had been thrown into the role of team leader after his teammate and three-time Grand Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali suffered a bad day in the mountains. Sweeping winds on the Filo Sierras de Comechingones made life difficult for the riders until a move by Rodolfo Torres lit things up and the trio of the Quintana brothers and Lopez set off in chase.
“It was a really complicated stage. There was a lot of wind during and the last 20 kilometres were really difficult,” he explained. “The strategy of the team was to work for me and they trusted in me to do well in this stage. We tried make the pace hard on the climb and for this we had to try to stay at the front. Vincenzo helped a lot throughout the whole stage. We knew that it was the last chance that we had in order to try to go move up the general classification because tomorrow will just be a sprint.”
Prior to his stage victory at the Tour de San Luis, Lopez had already showed some huge promise in his fledgling career, in particular with his third place finish and stage win at the Vuelta a Burgos in August. A stage victory in Argentina is a big step in his career and Lopez is keen to build on that.
“I’m a young person and I think I expect to learn a lot with the Astana team and little by little to develop more as a sportsman and later, I need to race Grand Tours like the Vuelta, Giro or the Tour.”