The 27-year-old Colombian has moved from Astana to Movistar and is about to embark on his seventh season as a pro, hoping to turn his string of Grand Tour top 10s – plus two podiums – into a three-week title.
“It’s complicated, and you can come to think like Dumoulin. Myself, to be honest, I have thought about leaving it behind and taking a step aside, because there are complex situations: the pressure, the sacrifice, the exhaustion, the injuries…” he said.
“When you’re a leader, you’re responsible for a whole team, but there are moments of despair and at times you can think hot-headedly. It’s important to be well supported. Family keeps you grounded.”
López has had his fair share of ups and downs since he turned professional in 2015 after winning the Tour de l’Avenir. His early progress was interrupted by a leg fracture at the end of 2016, and his latest encounter with the tarmac saw him crash out of last year’s Giro d’Italia in the opening-day time trial, which has delayed his start to 2021.
In between, he has claimed two Grand Tour podiums – at the Giro and Vuelta in 2018 – and has recorded four further top-10 finishes, some of which he felt could have been higher had things gone his way.
At last year’s Tour de France he lost his podium position after a disastrous penultimate-day time trial, while at the 2019 Giro his frustrations at perceived misfortune boiled over and he lashed out at a spectator who’d caused him to crash.
“The crashes and mechanicals are part of our job. You have to get through these things as you go, he said. “You have to try to keep going in life, because life, like cycling, has many potholes. You have to keep the faith and the motivation.”
What keeps him going, he added, is “the desire, the passion for wanting to achieve things and chase your dreams.”
López has made the switch from Astana to Movistar for the 2021 season, and noted that one of the factors in reducing the pressures on his shoulders was his status in the team.
Whereas he shouldered the lion’s share of Astana’s Grand Tour ambitions in the post-Nibali and Aru years, he will line up alongside Spaniards Enric Mas, Alejandro Valverde, and Marc Soler at Movistar.
“I see it as a positive that the pressure can go away a little, because at Astana I was the sole leader and the team always worked for me,” he said.
“You get to another team with other leaders and the pressure disappears. That means that if you’re strong, you can be up there, but without feeling that pressure. So as a team we’ll have more opportunities.”
López was always going to make a late start to the season given his Giro crash, but that has been delayed by another month after he contracted COVID-19 in January. He will only pin a race number on his new Movistar jersey at the Tour of the Alps on April 19, and will likely go on to ride the Tour de Romandie the following week.
He will not ride the Giro d’Italia but will instead target the Tour de France alongside Enric Mas before joining all the team’s big names at their home Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España.
“Although you might think the Giro is better suited to me because of the mountains, we have to adapt to what the bosses decide. It’s an objective of the team and we have to go after it with a good attitude,” he said.