By Jonny Long
Miguel Ángel López and Nairo Quintana have proposed the Colombians at the Tour de France form a national alliance to try and keep the yellow jersey on South American shoulders for another year, and team up against the Slovenian threat to their title.
"We all ride for different teams, we all have different interests, maybe there could be a collaboration on the road," López said.
The Astana man currently sits ninth on GC, just over a minute down on Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), while Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling) are in fifth and sixth, 30 seconds behind. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) is second, 21 seconds behind the leader.
"Maybe it’s something that could happen later in the Tour and once things are clearer in the race. Right now everything is more open. I don’t believe anyone has this intention, but for me, I would have nothing against this idea of an alliance with the Colombian riders," López added. "Maybe if I lose all options, maybe there could be alternative, I personally think about it like this."
Roglič is currently living up to his pre-Tour race favourite status, taking the yellow jersey on stage nine having accumulated bonus seconds throughout the first week to edge ahead of Bernal. Meanwhile, Roglič's countryman Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) has shown he currently has the strongest climbing legs of the GC contenders after attacking on the days in the Pyrenees, his sports director adding maybe his rider shouldn't have shown his hand this early in the race, as he will now be marked by rivals.
"These two [Roglič and Pogačar] are doing very well. Everyone talks about the Colombians being the best climbers, but cycling is changing, and teams are always very strong," López said. "We are seeing Roglič is very strong in the mountains but also very strong in the time trial. That will be a big advantage for him against the pure climbers."
Nairo Quintana also apparently endorsed this idea of an alliance, but Bernal seems less keen, saying Quintana has previously failed to pull through when following the defending champion's attacks.
“How strange that Nairo talks about alliances when I have attacked many times and I have gone with him, I have asked him for the change and he does not happen to help me," Bernal said. "It catches my attention."
Like the rest of us, López doesn't know how the GC battle will turn out, but the Alps will be the scene where the eventual 2020 Tour victor takes the race to his rival.
"The teams today are so strong, especially Jumbo and Ineos, this really limits the ability to make longer attacks," López explained. "No one is going to attack with two climbs to go. Now it’s so controlled it comes down to a mano-a-mano fight on the upper parts of the final climbs. Believe me, it’s hard enough to stay there. The leaders are equally strong at the top. You have to hang on as long as you can.
"Until now, this is just a preview of what lies ahead. The Tour is still very open, and there is a lot of battle ahead of us," he added. "Rigo and Egan are among the favourites, they can be on the podium, we see Roglič and Pogačar as the strongest right now. We’ll see how things turn out."
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