Colombia had a reason to smile as Miguel Ángel “Superman” Lopez finished third at this year’s Vuelta a España. 24-year-old Lopez capped off a sensational year after having secured third place at the Giro d’Italia as well in May. Though unable to win a stage at the competition, Lopez now has six podium finishes for the year cemented his position among Colombia’s top young cycling talents.
Lopez hadn’t been the rider most Colombians had expected to see on the podium. That burden fell to Nairo Quintana, the veteran rider who took out the title in 2016 but fell away from the pack on stage 17 after a promising start. The 28-year-old Quintana, who like Lopez is also a native of Boyacá, had to settle for an eighth place finish behind fellow Colombian Rigoberto Urán at seventh.
“The new generation is already here and many of them are shining” Quintana said of his compatriot’s effort. Quintana faced intense media criticism prior to the event, some expecting him to repeat his 2016 feat. Quintana did, however, along with his Spanish teammate Alejandro Valverde, take team Movistar to the top prize at the event. When we have tough moments we have to use them as part of the learning process,” Quintana said after stage 20, a point at which a podium finish seemed highly improbable.
As the race concluded in Madrid, the eventual winner of the general classification was Briton Simon Yates. The runner-up of the event was Spaniard Enric Mas and the stage itself was won by Elia Viviani; the third sprint stage that the Italian had won during the final grand tour of the Year.
Briton Simon Yates on track for victory as Vuelta a España rides towards final weekend
After a day that was effectively a victory lap for the 26-year-old Yates, the young man from Bury, Manchester, already has his sights set on the Giro d’Italia next year in Italy to settle “unfinished business”. Yates had missed out on winning the Giro this year but, with the momentum of his first major title, he will be looking to push through with the Mitchelton-Scott project; an Australian-backed team that includes his talented brother Adam and Colombian Esteban Chaves.
The Vuelta ended this year with the podium finishers being some of the youngest of all time. Lopez, who is not only young, caps off a happy weekend after confirming to Colombian media that he will have a young one on the way as his wife Bianca expects their first child in 2019.
Lopez’s sights now turn to the UCI World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, where with a little help from his friends Quintana, Urán and Sergio Henao, Colombia might just have a little more to smile about.