Monday, September 15, 2014

Miguel Angel Lopez signs with Astana

So many of you have probably seen by now that Tour de l'Avenir winner Miguel Angel Lopez has agreed to a deal with Astana. The Colombian, who in his first European race, lit everyone up in the mountains to claim the overall crown and many teams were after him at that point.

Lopez (right) getting ready to fuck up Brayan Ramirez (photo: El Colombiano)
Claudio Corti and Team Colombia were trying to get him using the home team pull and what I'm sure would be a huge contract of maybe 20,000 bucks. Team SKY was thrown into the mix there but that would be With that, Astana came calling and through his agent Rafael Acevedo, a deal was done quickly to bring Lopez in for 2015 and 2016 to, and I quote a certain Mr. Alexander Vinokourov, "grow with (Astana)...and be an effective rider in the mountains and at first help Fabio Aru."

I have a bad feeling about this. My feelings are 100% right about 20% of the time but with this one...this one seems bad. Just a few things to note about this transfer...

-The whole transfer went through Lopez' agent Acevedo so the star of the future had no contact with the team during and since the contract. I'm sure Astana hierarchy might call him to the team's lair in Astana but never meeting a team that has a grand total of 1 Spanish-speaking rider in Mikel Landa and no Spanish-speaking staff, that I'm aware of. He will basically be flying solo into his neo-pro season without much of a support system around him so it is going to be a sink or swim scenario. I know Astana and Vino said he can grow with them but you know...they are a bit authoritarian.

-Lopez has had a history with crashes and injuries. He is nicknamed "El Superman" after he was knocked off his bike by robbers but even after being stabbed by them, he fought them off. While that was a bit out of left field, he also had a few more crashes and injuries that has limited his racing in the last few years.

-Lopez hasn't had a lot of racing time the last few years. Just this year, he had less than 30 racing days including the Tour de l'Avenir. The lack of racing might be okay at the U23 level but unless you are training at a ridiculously high level, he will have to have an adjustment period to World Tour level racing and the length of the season.

Speaking of which, Lopez rode his first race since l'Avenir in his home state of Boyaca in Colombia this past week, the Vuelta a Boyaca. He didn't miss a beat by finishing 3rd overall (best U23 by nearly 4 minutes) and in the top 10 on every stage (3rd, 2nd, 4th, 7th and 5th places).

I am just going to be very curious how this plays out with the larger training load, longer races, a more nervous peloton with double the amount of riders he is used to. All of these concerns might just be blips in the rearview mirror if he adjusts well but people need to be realistic before shoveling expectations onto him before he even takes his first pedal stroke in the Kazakh sky blue.

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