López was sacked by the Kazakhstani squad over his links to the Spanish doctor Marcos Maynar, who was arrested in May for crimes against public health, drug trafficking, and money laundering.
With most WorldTour teams already full, he eventually signed with the Colombian Continental team Medellín-EPM in early January, meaning he won’t be racing at WorldTour level for the whole year.
In a radio interview with Colombian radio show Blog Deportivo (opens in new tab), López said that Astana “turned their back” on him, adding that nobody from the team had spoken to him since.
“It’s a complex and delicate issue that has caused a lot of damage,” he said. “They turned their backs on me, they me out and since that day I have not spoken to anyone in the team. It’s as if I had died for them.
“I felt strange because my relationship with the team goes back a decade. There wasn’t even a ‘Hello, how are you?’ or ‘How are you coping?'”
López lamented the situation he was left in, trying to find a team with the new season coming up fast. However, he asserted that his anti-doping record was unblemished and said that he is looking forward to competing in his home country this year.
“They told me I was leaving when many teams had already closed, so it was very complicated,” he said. “My anti-doping biological passport controls are unblemished, and that is what counts. Today I am allowed to compete in any team.
“The main objective now is to enjoy being in Colombia, to be with my family and the fans. I want to enjoy every moment to its maximum. Here, the rhythm of the race is different, and there are many factors that count, but we’re fine.”
Later, speaking at the Medellín-EPM team presentation, during which the team unveiled a switch from a plain black kit to a vibrant multi-colour fade number, López said that he’s motivated and eager to start racing again.
He’ll make his full debut with the team at next week’s Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina alongside 46-year-old teammate Oscar Sevilla.
“I’m super motivated and eager,” he said. “Once again, I have the hope to fight and enjoy with the great teammates I have, to race in my country, to share with the people, to be tranquil, and to live cycling more fully.
“I haven’t been able to train very well at the end of 2022 – it has been complicated. But we have an excellent team, great teammates, and very good people. We’re going to do well, without pressure, and enjoy and live every moment, which is the most important thing.”
López has already taken his first race win since joining his new team, albeit at the 72km local race, the Clásica de Ciudad de Vileta, where he took victory by over two minutes. He has also recently set a new Strava record (opens in new tab) up the Alto de las Palmas, beating times set by the likes of Sergio Higuita, Egan Bernal, and Rigoberto Urán and signalling his good form.
Harder challenges lie ahead though, including a battle with Bernal, Higuita, world champion Remco Evenepoel, and Dani Martínez in San Juan.
“In Vileta there wasn’t a very high participation,” he told Blog Deportivo. “That’s why I could be far ahead. But in Colombia the level is very high. I can’t say that I’m always going to win, but I always want to be at 100%.”