Trolling, bum bags and modelling aspirations: Juanpe López is showing the Vuelta a España peloton how to have fun

The Spaniard is most definitely living his best life as he tries to force a career into the niche area of supermarket modelling

Juanpe Lopez
(Image credit: Cxyling/Unipublic)

The stresses of Grand Tour racing can prove too much for some bike riders - but not Lidl-Trek's Juanpe López.

Racing his fourth successive Vuelta a España, the Spaniard is boosting his popularity in his home country by exploiting his team's recent sponsorship by the supermarket chain Lidl.

In the first week of the race, López, sporting a permanent cheesy grin, has been in mischievous form, clad in his range of Lidl merchandise. 

Let's recap what has been a rather fun, eventful and wild week for the Andalusian. 

Swimming pool trolling

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López's Vuelta adventure got underway with a spot of mischief. He and his seven teammates at the race visited a local Lidl store in Barcelona for some promotional and marketing videos.

After the customary photos of trollies loaded up with fruit and veg, López was then caught on camera returning from the middle aisle with an inflatable swimming pool.

A team insider revealed to Cycling Weekly that López quipped he was buying it for Jumbo-Visma, a reference to the 2019 Vuelta when half of the Dutch team slipped on a wet road during the race's opening team time trial. Where had the water come from? A child's swimming pool that had burst.

Even if López was really planning a sabotage act (he assured us he was not), the roads on the streets of Barcelona were still soaked come Saturday evening.

T-shirt memento

Just before the race started in Barcelona, the team's eight riders were presented with a special t-shirt.

It read: "I got selected for La Vuelta and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

Juanpe Lopez

(Image credit: Lidl-Trek)

Our man López is hiding away at the back of this team photo on the bus, and while he might not look that entertained (although he is far happier than the straight-faced Kenny Elissonde [right, second back]), he has since taken a real shine to the €14 t-shirt.

For Cycling Weekly understands that López has been wearing the t-shirt, unprompted and voluntarily, at the breakfast and dinner table.

He was then spotted with the t-shirt after a recent stage finish - a clear sign that it has become his first item of clothing after his post-race shower.

Juanpe Lopez/Instagram

(Image credit: Juanpe Lopez/Instagram)

New signing for FC Andorra

Possibly the peloton's biggest football fan - he is a Real Betis supporter, one of Spain's top clubs - López announced before the start of stage four that he was about to begin his second sporting career.

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López, who played football as a youngster and attends Betis games whenever he is home, was given an FC Andorra t-shirt with his name and number 9 printed on it. He then signed-on and went to the team presentation with his new jersey.

In a subsequent interview with Eurosport Spain, he revealed that he had indeed signed a contract to play as a striker for the team from 2024. It is not yet known if he has informed his current employers who last year signed him to a contract until the end of 2025.

(NB: López was joking, but shhh 🤫) 

Lidl merch

With the race back in Spain after its 24 hour excursion in Andorra, and the wet weather finally being replaced by sunny days, López was then spotted at the starts of stages four, five and seven wearing his Lidl flip-flops, cotton socks with the supermarket's enlarged logo on both sides - and even a Lidl bum bag before the sixth stage. 

Juanpe Lopez

(Image credit: Lidl-Trek)

Juanpe Lopez

(Image credit: Lidl-Trek)

"Everything I have is from Lidl," he said matter-of-factly, being the good representative Lidl surely demanded when penning their multi-million euro deal that has turned the team into one of the peloton's new money bags. "The only thing I still need is the swim shorts to go to the beach. I hope they arrive in the next few days. I already have a Lidl towel but I really need the shorts for when I go to the beach."

The flip-flops, or chanclas, have become his favourite item. "My home is my suitcase, and I always put my chanclas in my suitcase," he confirmed.

As for the socks. "It's a good story. They are from Elke Weylandt's son [the team's operation manager]. I gave some of my kit to his son, and his son gave me the socks. He was so happy, and I am so happy with my socks."

When asked if he was actually trying to be a model for the supermarket, he smiled and said: "Yeah, you know it. I want every Lidl shop in Spain to have a picture of me in my Lidl shoes, socks, shorts, everything."

There is another item of Lidl merch that López could be rocking - but so far has refused: a Lidl bucket hat. "No, no, no," he said when asked why he hasn't donned the hat yet. "I have hair and I want to show my hair off."

Team presentation hill-climber

López definitely doesn't mind a little showing off.

Ahead of stage five, he was photographed returning from the team presentation racing a makeshift hill climb, in his Lidl socks, his Lidl flop-flops and his short cut hair flapping in the wind.

Juanpe Lopez

(Image credit: Cxyling/Unipublic)

On the eve of the race's second weekend, López - who wore the maglia rosa for 10 days at the 2022 Giro d'Italia - is 19th on GC, 51 seconds adrift of defending champion Remco Evenepoel.

He is riding a relaxed approach to the general classification, seeing how far he can get and assessing his overall ambitions as the race progresses.

It is unclear, even to him, how the following two weeks will play out, but what is for sure is that he is the rider having the most fun at the 2023 Vuelta a España.

A job as a Lidl España modelo is surely just around the corner. We just hope he can combine it with his cycling and football career. 

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Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.

Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.