Landa looking to wipe the slate clean at 2017 Giro d'Italia

'I learned a lot of things in 2016 and this year I'm going to use them' says Team Sky rider

Mikel Landa will have a second bite at the Giro d’Italia cherry for Team Sky this May as he looks to set the record straight following his mid-race abandon in 2016.

Landa is going for victory, but in his way is one of the toughest line-ups for the Italian race in recent years, with his former teammates Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru just two of those setting their stall out for the corsa rosa.

Like most of his competitors, Landa is not put off by the prospect of having so many rivals for the maglia rosa - but is instead energised by it.

“It’s not the same when you win with two or three opponents than when you win with ten opponents,” Landa said at a Team Sky training camp in Mallorca this week. “It’s going to be much more difficult to finish in a good place, but for the spectators it is going to be fantastic having ten of the best riders in the world riding for the victory. I think it is going to be very good for everyone - for us and the spectators.”

Keen to have a solid 2017 campaign, Landa got his pre-season training underway earlier than usual and has been doing some training in the mountains, even in the snow of the Basque Country.

2017 will be a chance for Landa to wipe the slate clean after a somewhat challenging debut for his new team. After being forced to delay the start of his season until the end of March, victories quickly came, and it seemed that he was on track for the Giro d’Italia. However, it swiftly derailed again with his abandon during stage 10. A 12th place in the Criterium du Dauphine earned him a spot in the Tour de France squad, and he helped Chris Froome to a third yellow jersey, but his season never really got going after that.

“I arrived at Team Sky with a lot of goals, but I started with illness and then during the Giro I had to go home, but I learned a lot of things and this year I’m going to use them,” explained Landa. “When I had that illness I stopped completely, and I tried to come back too quickly for the Giro, so I lost a lot of muscle. During the Tour I was feeling bad and it was difficult to get better.

“I finished the season with an injury in my hip, so I started doing more gym exercises and more swimming exercises so that I don’t have the same problem again.”

Landa will not bear the burden of sole leadership at the Giro d’Italia, with Geraint Thomas earning equal billing with the Spaniard for the Italian Grand Tour. It will be the first real opportunity for Thomas to target the general classification at a three-week stage racing after showing promise in 2015 and again last year. Landa is happy for the company and believes that it could give them leverage over some of their rivals.

“I would like to have him with me in the team for the Giro. I think that it will be good for our tactics and we can play our cards better with our opponents. If he comes then it would be the best,” Landa said.

For the 100th Giro d’Italia, the organisers unveiled a brutal course late last year, which covers most of the country. The final week will take a particular toll on the riders with four tough mountain stages and a penultimate-day time trial that will ensure victory is not secure until the final day.

It is the time trial kilometres, of which there are 67.2, that could prove most challenging for Landa. The 27-year-old postponed the start of last season as he worked on his time trialling and is still trying to improve it, but he’d still prefer they weren’t there.

“For me, it is better if there is no time trial, but it is true that I am working to be better and I think that I have done some good work. I continue to do so, and I think that I am ready,” he said. “I have changed my training a lot on the TT bike, I am still doing some hard training and also I will be on the track to test my position. I keep working on it.”

Landa is due to begin his race programme a little earlier than his last with the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana at the start of February. Tirreno-Adriatico, the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Alps (formerly the Giro del Trentino) will form the build-up to his tilt at the Giro d’Italia.

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