"I really want to race". Juanpe Lopez is ready for his season debut at the Volta Catalunya after recovering from a broken collarbone.
Two months have passed since the crash that put the Spaniard on the sideline before the season had even begun. A crash during team training camp in Spain saw him break his collarbone . At that time, the middle of January, he was preparing for his first race at Volta Valenciana but, everything had to be postponed.
First came the surgery, then rehabilitation and finally a major training block to approach his new debut, this time at Volta Catalunya, with the right condition.
“I worked well and a lot in Sierra Nevada,” Juanpe explained. “As soon as the doctors gave me the green light I went up to altitude to train. I stayed there for 30 days, the rest of my approach to this debut I did at home. The numbers, analyzed with my coach Josu Larrazabal, say the condition is good, but I miss the so-called race rhythm. The first stages of Catalunya I will definitely suffer due to the changes of rhythm, but I take that into account. For me what matters is to feel good, to know that I have fully recovered and to pin again the number on my back. I really miss racing, the adrenaline, the competition!”
“Setting specific goals for a debut is complicated, there are too many question marks. I have to take it a little bit day by day. We have Ciccone on the team who is going strong. I will be by his side to help him, first and foremost. Then, if there is an opportunity, and the legs are there, to go on the attack, I will not back down.”
One of the most beautiful aspect’s of Juanpe’s character is the incurable optimism he conveys when he speaks. Juanpe always finds the positive aspect to focus on, particularly when things are not going well, as in the case of this crash.
“I broke my collarbone before I even started the season. I missed two races where I could have done well, like Volta Valenciana and Volta ao Algarve, but at the same time I was able to put a solid load of training in my legs that, looking to my (and the team’s) intentions, will be beneficial during the season. All in all, we were able to reduce this adversity to a minor bump in my 2023 journey,”
“I would have been happy to stick to my initial plans, of course, but in Sierra Nevada I had a good time. Many riders don’t like camps, but I do. It’s the best way to live 100 percent like an athlete. You eat and rest well, you train consistently. Of course, the distance from family and friends is felt after a while, but to do what I enjoy, it’s a sacrifice I gladly make. In short, we have to admit that being professional riders means that we are lucky people, we should never forget that.”
Getting back to talking about racing, it is not possible to look to the future without first reflecting back to what it was like in 2022 for Juanpe. A Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia, raced as one of the protagonists and then a bitter and unfortunate experience at Vuelta a España, his last race of the season.
“It was a bittersweet race for me, personally. I was not able to express myself as I wanted to but, with the utmost honesty, it didn’t overly affect me. I always knew that the Giro d’Italia had been something incredible. I had a very good condition, I felt a way that I have only felt a few times in my life. Then came the Maglia Rosa and 10 days as the leader. I raced it like I was over the moon. I got the maximum out of it, but it was not a good reason to allude myself that, from then on, everything would be easier. The Vuelta served as a lesson on the tougher side of cycling, when nothing comes easy, when you need to grit your teeth, to suffer every day to get to the finish line. Finishing the race gave me even more awareness of my capabilities. I came out mentally stronger.”
Now there is more attention on me, from the media and the fans. Of course, I feel it and I’ve learned how to deal with it. But in my head, my goals are the same. 2023 is one more season on my shoulders, a chance to grow more, to mature, to consolidate what I've done so far and, of course, try to make a new step forward.
“After Catalunya I will race the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, then comes the Ardennes Classics. My focus now is on these goals. I will have time to think the rest of my season, which currently includes the Tour de France and then the Vuelta a España again, later. These are two events I care about, but I want to approach them with the right spirit and mindset.”