Miguel Ángel López Returns to Team Astana
Colombian cyclist Miguel Ángel López will return to Astana after signing a two-season contract with the Kazakh team.
The agreement was announced last month and marks the return of López, 27, who had already been part of Team Astana for six seasons (from 2015-2020). The Colombian rider had moved to the Spanish team, Movistar, at the end of 2020 on a one-year contract, which had been extended until 2023 earlier this year. However, on September 18, Astana announced that both parties had reached a mutual agreement to end the contract.
The decision came after López decided to withdraw from the Vuelta a España during the penultimate stage of the competition when he was about 60 kilometres from the finish line and was 3rd in the general classification.
“Superman” López, as he is known, has reached Grand Tour podiums twice in his career, placing 3rd in the Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Tour in 2018, while representing Astana. Going into the new season, he is currently priced by outright odds for betting on cycling as one of the top 20 favourites to win the Tour de France at odds of 70/1.
— Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (@SupermanlopezN) August 28, 2021
“It’s a return home. In the world of professional cycling, a runner who wants to continue to evolve sometimes has to change something in his career, have a new experience. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not,” said the Colombian, when commenting on his experience at Movistar.
López first made headlines in 2016 when he won his first World Tour stage at the Tour de Suisse, followed by a win on stage 11 of the Spanish Tour. In the following years, he also achieved important triumphs in the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour Colombia. In 2020 he won the 17th stage of the Tour de France, the ‘Queen Stage’ of the race, which was considered one of the toughest summit finishes in the history of the competition, featuring two massive climbs: the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Loze.
Miguel Ángel López is the second reinforcement for the structure commanded by Alexandr Shefer, after the Italian Vincenzo Nibali also announced his return to Astana. Nibali, 36, had already represented Astana from 2013 to 2016. During that time he won the 2013 and 2016 Giro and the 2014 Tour de France while coming second in the 2013 Vuelta a España.
After four years in Astana, the Italian spent three seasons in Bahrain-Merida, before moving to Trek-Segafredo for two seasons. During those years, Nibali reached three podiums in Grand Tours, namely a 3rd place in the Italian Tour and a 2nd place in the Vuelta in 2017 and 2nd place in the Giro in 2019.
On the other hand, Jakob Fuglsang and Hugo Houle have announced they will be leaving the Kazakhs to join Israel Start-Up Nation, who has also signed Chris Froome last year, where they will continue to run the World Tour.
“We are delighted to be able to hire a proven winner, Fuglsang, and a great professional, Houle,” said, Sylvan Adams, one of the team owners in a brief statement.
While these are some of the first moves in the cycling market, it is still expected that more cyclists will find new homes before resuming their preparation for next year’s season.