Meet one of the most beloved riders in the peloton
It’s OK if you didn’t know Juan Pedro López very well before Tuesday’s attack on Mt. Etna at the Giro d’Italia. The 24-year-old has not yet won a race in his early pro career, although he came agonizingly close to a stage win on his way to taking over the fabled Maglia Rosa.
Juanpe is certainly in the limelight now, however, and he’s already wielding his newfound status like a seasoned pro.
With great power comes great responsibility
— GCN Racing (@GcnRacing) May 11, 2022
The young Spaniard deserves the attention. He’s been a favorite within the team ever since he signed with Trek-Segafredo as a stagiare in 2019, and he has consistently displayed his potential at every step, even while largely riding in supporting roles.
Juanpe won’t be relinquishing pink without a fight, and he’ll certainly be making a lot of noise for years to come. Now is a good time to learn everything you can about the lively rider from Andalusia. We’re here to help!
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more respected young rider anywhere
He’s fierce on a bike, no question, but Juanpe’s most impressive quality may be how well he endears himself to pretty much everyone.
Luis Ángel Maté, a veteran rider for Euskaltel-Euskadi, and a fellow Andalusian who trains with López, spoke with us and described López as having a talent “not just for cycling, but also for social relations, connecting with people, talent for everything he applied himself to.”
“I had the luck to meet him when he was a young boy during the cyclo-sportive of Juanjo Lobato. He was just a kid and we were already professionals. We rode several laps of a hard circuit and Juanpe was the only rider from the entire event who hung on to us.” Maté said. “I practically watched him grow up and saw how he made his dreams come true, how he has developed a very Andaluz character, full of joy and generosity. What stands out most is the maturity and clarity he has always had to enjoy everything he has done.
“It’s not been an easy path. Coming from Lebrija presented various hurdles that not everyone has to face – for this, everything he achieves has even more merit.”
Juanpe's turn in pink may not be as surprising as you think
Even though López wasn’t expecting to take the pink jersey, he has proven that he is capable in the past. Prior to the Giro, he took 11th in the general classification and second in the youth classification at the hilly Itzulia Basque Country. And perhaps most impressively, he shined when thrust into a leader’s position at last year’s Vuelta a España.
Last September, teammate Giulio Ciccone had been leading the way for Trek-Segafredo, but a bad crash on Stage 16 knocked him out of the competition. López, who had entered the third week of the grand tour in 16th on the general classification while riding in support of Cicco, was given the green light to climb the standings as much as possible. He finished 13th overall in Madrid.
That experience gave him a major shot of confidence that seems to have carried into 2022.
“I didn’t think I could do this performance at the Vuelta,” López said after the race. “I feel confidence around me and I feel the same for those who are helping me. This Vuelta gave me the confirmation that I have the right characteristics, physical and mental, to look to [grand tours] as the ideal race in which I can perform well.
He went on to add, presciently: “Let’s focus on the next step. I hope that, having climbed the Vuelta’s mountains, the next could be the Giro d’Italia, the dream of every climber.”
Juanpe was mentored by Alberto Contador
It’s convenient that Juanpe is the first Spanish rider to wear the Maglia Rosa since Contador in 2015. He developed his racing chops in Contador’s cycling foundation, and rode for Contador’s Kometa Cycling Team before joining Trek-Segafredo. The two have remained close ever since.
Can you imagine the guy on the left supporting @juanpelopez97 today in Lagos de Cavadonga?! 🤩
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) September 1, 2021
Following the example of a seven-time grand tour champion is generally a good idea. And López has a leg-up on Contador in one regard: Of the 17 Spaniards who have ever donned the Maglia Rosa, none were as young as Juanpe. The future is extremely bright.
Juanpe is also an absolute ham
In a grueling sport like cycling, it’s never good to take yourself too seriously. Fortunately, Juanpe has never been in danger of that.
From disrupting team presentations …
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) April 3, 2022
… to heightening team bus vibes …
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) April 9, 2022
… to practicing hard-hitting journalism …
Enjoy 😜🤣 pic.twitter.com/4MNVndRost
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) March 23, 2022
… Juanpe likes to keep things loose above all. There’s a lot of fun stuffed in that 5’6 frame, ensuring that even when he isn’t scaling active volcanoes at alarming speed, he’s still one of the easiest riders to root for in the peloton.
If tomorrow the team told him to pull, he would without question because he is a very disciplined person with a big heart.
- Luis Ángel Maté
“He is a very generous guy,” Maté said. “If tomorrow the team told him to pull, he would without question because he is a very disciplined person with a big heart.”
Maté tells us one last story about his countryman — an example of what makes Juanpe one of the most refreshing riders in the world, both figuratively and literally.
“A story that sums him up: Last summer we were training together at Sierra Nevada on a hellishly hot day,” Maté said. “We were climbing up Hazallanas, a very difficult climb. At one point we passed a reservoir and I said as a half-serious, half-joke: ‘Come on let’s jump in, it’s so hot.’ Before I knew it, he had jumped off the bike, taken his jersey off and was jumping into the water.
“Of course, I followed his lead and jumped in too, then there were the two of us cooling off in the reservoir.”
Juanpe’s time in pink is far from over, and his career will certainly feature many more milestones. But we’ll remember Stage 4 of the 2022 Giro d’Italia for a long, long time as the day an excellent rider and person formally introduced himself to the cycling world.