Juan Pedro López has stated it is a dream to hold onto the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia, claiming he didn't expect to still be leading the race at the end of yesterday's (Sunday) stage nine up Blockhaus.
The Spaniard also apologised for throwing a water bottle at Sam Oomen (Jumbo-Visma), after the pair touched wheels earlier in the stage.
Crossing the finish line one minute and 46 seconds after stage winner Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), López punched the air as he heard over the team radio he is still leading the Giro d'Italia general classification, something he has done since the fourth stage.
While his lead is a lot slender now - João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) sits just 12 seconds behind López in the GC, with a further ten riders all within 90 seconds of the leader - the Trek-Segafredo rider emotionally expressed his sheer delight at holding onto the maglia rosa for at least another day on Tuesday.
I know many of you have heard about @juanpelopez97 for the first time at this Giro. I know him well and It says a lot about Juanpe when the first thing he does is apologise publicly to @SamOomen visibly emotional #Giro pic.twitter.com/Ttnj8xhAiqMay 15, 2022
I came to the Giro trying to win one stage," López said. "But, after the fourth stage I took the maglia rosa, and have now had it for six days, and for me this is a dream. I enjoy everyday, every moment, every kilometre wearing the pink jersey.
"I still can't believe it right now. I certainly didn't expect to be here, at the top of the Blockhaus, one day before the rest day, with the pink jersey."
Indeed, it seemed likely López would relinquish control of the pink jersey with 8km to go in the race. The Spaniard nearly crashed after touching wheels with Sam Oomen, causing him to lose crucial seconds up the steep gradient.
The 24-year-old threw a water bottle at the Jumbo-Visma rider, which he apologised for after the race.
“I want to say sorry to Sam," López said. "At one point we were under pressure and he tried to push me out. There I lost my mind for a moment and threw a water bottle at him. I want to apologise for that.
“Unfortunately, this was a very difficult moment for me mentally," López explained. "I needed to stay focused. I needed to put my mind 100 per cent into the race, and I told myself that I need to push my tempo again to stay another day in pink."
López reiterated his positivity to lead the Giro d'Italia for another stage at the Trek-Segafredo rest-day press conference, commending his team for the work they have put in helping him to achieve this.
"At one moment I was a little bit nervous, but I managed to stay calm because I have confidence in my team, my teammates did an amazing job keeping it under control and finally, the most important is that I have at least one more day with the maglia rosa.
"I don't know if the podium is possible or not, but I will keep giving 100 per cent everyday. If I stay in the top-three I'm happy. If I don't, I'm happy, because I've had the maglia rosa, so we will see what happens."
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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