Mikel Landa heads into the fourth and final 160.9km stage four finale of the Giro del Trentino, holding a eight second advantage over Astana's stage 3 winner Tanel Kangert. Landa moved into the race lead following victory on stage 2 but found himself out of teammates on the Fai della Paganella climb and up against former Astana teammates Kangert and Jakob Fuglsang.
The 26-year-old matched and chased the attacks on the climb until Kangert soloed away for the stage win with two kilometres to race, crossing the line in the first chase group 10 seconds later to keep his leader's jersey.
"On the final climb I felt good and thought I could defend the jersey. I didn't feel in difficulty until we finished the descent - the final 3km to the finish were flat and it would have been easy to lose time there," Landa said in a release from his team. "There are a lot of good riders close to me on the GC and they tried hard, but fortunately I felt very strong and I kept the jersey."
While Landa took part in Coppi e Bartali, finishing 11th, and the Tour of the Basque Country where he won a stage and finished 12th overall, the Spaniard explained he was unsure how he would perform on the longer Italian mountains.
"I was a little bit afraid because it was about 30 minutes of effort, my longest climb of the season, but I'm feeling better day by day," Landa said. "I was also a bit worried about being alone but we had worked a lot before, so I cannot complain to my team-mates. They did a fantastic job."
Stage 4 starts in Malè and takes the peloton to Cles, featuring the Fondo, twice, Marcena di Rumo and Forcella di Brez climbs. The 6km Forcella di Brez climbs tops at 1402m in altitude before the final 38.7km descent into the finishing circuit in Cles with Landa aware of task facing Sky to defend the jersey and secure Sky's second GC win in as many years after Richie Porte's victory.
"We will speak tonight about a strategy but it is going to be hard. We have to control the race until the last moment - but I am confident. I think Astana will go all in tomorrow with the strong climbers they have," he added of the tactics for the final stage.
Landa's next race will be the Giro d'Italia where he will lead Team Sky with the ambition of winning the overall.