Landa: It's been calm between Thomas and Froome but egos will show

Movistar want to work with other teams to derail the Team Sky train

Mikel Landa (Movistar) says that the status quo between Team Sky riders Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome can only last so long before 'ego and ambition' rear their heads.

If any rivals have a window into the minds of the Team Sky duo it is Landa, who spent two years on the team before departing for Movistar over the winter.

Landa's former team has locked out the top two spots in the general classification since stage 11 to La Rosière when Thomas took the stage win and the yellow jersey. With both riders holding the pace at the moment, the team haven't been forced to make a call as to which rider to lay it on the line for, but there is a lot at stake and Landa believes that things could change in the final week.

"Until now, it has been pretty calm between Thomas and Froome, but it is clear that both of them have a lot of ambition," said Landa, speaking at Movistar's own media event in Narbonne.

"For Thomas, something big could be achieved, a dream of his and many other cyclists, that is, to win the Tour. Meanwhile, for Froome, it would be to win his fifth and to enter history. Sooner or later the ego and ambition of each of them will show."

Movistar have been one of the most aggressive general classification teams, primarily using Alejandro Valverde to try and put Team Sky under pressure. Valverde went on a long-range attack on stage 11, which came up short and, undeterred, did it again the following day.

On Monday, the 38-year-old said that the team wants to work with other squads to help 'dismantle' Team Sky's train, but added that they are struggling to find any volunteers. He still hopes to be able to rally some support as the race hits the Pyrenees.

"Our aim is to try to isolate Sky, and where we can, help other teams, which is what we have not been able to do at this moment," said Valverde. "Sunweb are lucky to enough to be riding on others' wheels, staying close to their rivals and then get some seconds through bonuses for second or third places.

"LottoNL-Jumbo have adopted a similar attitude, regardless of the big exhibition of [Steven] Kruijswijk [on stage 13 - ed], without there being a real plan to fight to break the race apart. We would like to have some help from them and others together to try and dismantle the Sky block. Sometimes we talk, but it is complicated, everyone already has their own objectives and the strategy that they are using is going well and it is difficult to change it."

Landa seconded the opinion of his elder teammate, saying: "Our ambition is to continue to try and tire out Team Sky, to put them into difficulty, without forgetting ourselves, with two of us in sixth and eighth overall. We also have riders ahead in the same situation, such as [Primoz] Roglic or [Tom] Dumoulin and they also must help to do some damage."

 

Remaining optimistic

Movistar came into the Tour de France with big ambitions, naming all three of their top general classification riders in their line-up. However, things have not gone to plan over the first two weeks. Nairo Quintana suffered a mechanical problem in the final kilometres of stage 1 and lost more than a minute to the other contenders, and collectively they lost more ground in the stage 3 team time trial.

Landa was next to suffer some misfortune when he crashed while drinking from his bidon on stage 9's Roubaix stage. He only lost seven seconds on the day but the ramifications have been felt throughout the entire second week for the Spaniard and he's struggled in some of the mountain stages. Valverde, who was their best-placed rider at the start of the week, shed time on both stages 11 and 12 following lengthy attacks, while Quintana struggled in the heat before making a minor comeback in Mende on Saturday.

With five days of proper racing ahead, minus the final Paris stage, Landa is now Movistar's top-placed GC rider in sixth at 3:42 behind Thomas, while Quintana sits in eighth at 4:23 and Valverde 11th at 9:36. Quintana is not put off by the time gaps and believes they have it in them to bring it back in the final week.

"In other Tours, we have been further back from our objective at this point in the race. Anything is possible," said Quintana. "We continue to believe that we have to have a good day and if we have the legs then it will be possible to take advantage of it. One can think about accounts and numbers, but in my head, I'm thinking about having a good day and making the most of it without thinking about numbers. Whatever happens, happens.

"We have ahead of us three very difficult days, above all the short stage of 65 kilometres on Wednesday, for the pure climbers, on terrain that we know and that we know we can go well on. At the end of it all, on Saturday, we will have to face the time trial, terrain that we have seen does not favour us at all. Our major strength is the trust that we have that in us, in our history, and that in the third week we go better. We have to wait and look for the weaknesses that our rivals have, and until now, truthfully, they have shown that they are strong."

Only time will tell if Movistar can find the form that they were lacking in the Alps at the start of the second week. There are some good signs for Landa, who has been battling through the pain in his back, following an easier stage on Sunday where Dan Martin's attack on the Pic de Nore was the only thing of note for the general classification riders.

"Yesterday, I already noted that my back was better and it doesn't feel as uncomfortable as it has been in the previous days," he said.

"I am optimistic. In terms of my physical level, the second week of the 2017 Tour de France was when I found myself at my best. This year, it has not been like this, and considering how my preparation went, perhaps the third week of 2018 will be when I feel best."

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