Pink for Juanpe!

Juan Pedro Lopez finishes second on Etna and claims the overall lead of the Giro d’Italia

There was no hiding the sheer disappointment for Juan Pedro Lopez when he crossed the finish line of Stage 4 in the Giro d’Italia. He had messed up the final corner, and it caused him to brake hard. His rear wheel slid on the tarmac. Juanpe kept the bike upright, but a chance at victory atop Mount Etna was gone, leaving him a bitter second place.

Then moments later, he realized what he had accomplished. The coveted maglia rosa was his, and tears of frustration turned to sobs of joy.

“I am so happy to take the jersey,” said an emotional Lopez. “I didn’t believe in the moment when someone told me I had the pink jersey. After 10mins, I finally realized it. I will enjoy it today, tomorrow, I don’t know how many days I will have it, but I will enjoy every moment.”

Juanpe shows frustration after missing out on the victory.

Stage 4 was the first climbing test of this year’s Giro, and Lopez had orders to join the breakaway if there were enough riders for a chance to make it to the finish. When 14 riders went up the road, Juanpe was there. “It was the plan to be in a breakaway if a large group went,” said Juanpe. “So, mission accomplished.”

The breakaway gained over seven minutes, and with no significant threats to the GC, there was no urgency to bring it to heel. At the foot of Etna, a long 22 kilometers to the finish, it was likely the win would come from the leading group.

Juanpe gave a little dig at the start, testing the waters, but the group came back together. It wasn’t until 11 kilometers from the finish that he went all-in.

“My director told me to try and go in the hardest part [of the climb], so I did,” explained Lopez. “It was the best moment to make the difference, and when I went, I felt strong. You never know what happens, so I tried.”

 

A gutsy attack with over 11 kilometers to climb.

Lopez quickly caught the sole leader – Sefano Oldani (Alpecin-Fenix), who had slipped out of the group at the foot of the climb – and took over the pole position. Juanpe settled into his pace. The meters slowly ticked off, and the gap steadied at 30-40 seconds to the chasers.

Behind, Lennard Kamna (Bora-hansgrohe) had waited patiently, and at six kilometers to go made his move.

“Kamna caught me in the last 2-3k, and we worked together until the sprint. But I nearly crashed and… nothing. I wanted to win, but it was so difficult,” explained Lopez. “Then I found out I have the jersey, and now I am so happy!”

Juanpe and Kamna worked together for the final 2 kilometers.

Disappointment to bliss - all the emotions for our young Spaniard.

Juanpe was overwhelmed by alienated emotions. First, utter disappointment of missing the win, then, the reality of what he had accomplished – a leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour – overtook him.

He didn’t hold back his tears: “I did so much sacrifice and effort for this Giro so this jersey is a nice payback for that. It has been a dream since a young kid to take a leader’s jersey.”