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The Colombian classification contender hobbled out of stage 4 to Etna suffering what the team initially described as hip problems.
A few hour later as the race circus closed down atop the broiling volcano, further information surfaced from Astana’s team bubble.
“Miguel Ángel has some thigh problems for a few days already. We tried to do our best to solve it during the first stages in Budapest and during the rest day, but it did not work,” said team doctor Emilio Magni. “Today, unfortunately, he had to stop. Our first diagnosis is the tendon inflammation to the left quadriceps due to probable overload or old injury.”
López’s abandonment continues a streak of grand tour DNFs that stretches back a lot further than López would like.
The first of four grand tour abandons in a row came when a freak crash saw López out on day one of the 2020 Giro. An early exit from the 2021 Tour came next, then was the high-drama departure from the 2021 Vuelta a España in a torrent of intra-team tantrums.
This year’s Giro and a return to old friends Astana gave López a chance at grand tour redemption. Only the scourge of any pro rider – the wear and tear of high volume training – paid its price.
“It is really sad to finish the Giro in this way after just four days due to an injury. The team staff did all possible to help me to recover during these days, but it was impossible in racing conditions,” López said.
“I was hoping day by day that it becomes better and I could pass it, but today I just could not push the pedals normally due to the pain in my thigh. I am really sorry to leave the race and my teammates, who came here to help me to fight for the general classification, but that’s cycling. I wish all the guys good luck and I hope the team will do a strong race!”
So what next for López and Astana?
“Superman” is scheduled to fly again at the Tour de France this summer. The team is scrambling to pin down the cause of the problem and fix it, fast.
“In the next days the rider will pass deep medical check-up to find the exact cause of the injury to start the appropriate treatment,” Magni said.
And for Astana? With co-leader Vincenzo Nibali also out of contention after ceding time on the Etna summit, Plans C, D, E, and F will come into play.
“It’s obvious we will have to make adjustments to our plans,” said Astana sport director Stefano Zanini. “We will take it day by day and face the race with tranquility. It’s something we can discuss among the leaders of the team.”
Stage hunters like U.S. star Joe Dombrowski will see their chance to shine.
“The Giro is long and if things open up over the course of three weeks, and if there’s an opportunity to take a stage to target a stage, for sure I will do it,” Dombrowski said.