Mikel Landa confirms Tour de France participation

Basque rules out Giro, but likely to return to Vuelta a España in 2018

Mikel Landa (Movistar) has confirmed that he will not be taking part in the Giro d’Italia in 2018 and will instead return to the Tour de France, where he missed out on the podium last season by just one second.

Speaking at the 2018 Vuelta a España route presentation in Estepona on Saturday, Landa confirmed that he “wanted to go to the Tour de France in really top form and I think I have to sacrifice the Giro d’Italia if I do that.”

“The Vuelta a España, too, is very likely, particularly with a Worlds which is so demanding this year and which suits the climbers, and the Vuelta’s good preparation for that,” Landa continued. “And I think it’s good for me to do two Grand Tours, so if I don’t do the Giro, that makes the Vuelta more likely.”

Landa’s increasing interest in the Tour, inspired by a top GC placing in 2017 despite working for Sky teammate Chris Froome, effectively confirms that Movistar will not race the Giro d’Italia with any of their three GC leaders.

Instead, the Spanish team will tackle the Tour with a very unusual combination of three potential GC contenders – Landa, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde. While Valverde is sure to do the Vuelta and Landa is almost certain to join him, the only uncertainty now remaining is whether Quintana will return to the Spanish Grand Tour, which he won in 2016.

Landa’s absence from the 2018 Giro d’Italia means he will be missing from a race that he has ridden every year since 2014, when he finished 34th. The Giro was the site of his major breakthrough in 2015, when the Basque claimed his one Grand Tour podium finish to date, taking third overall. That was followed by an abandon with a stomach illness in 2016 and – following a bad crash on the Blockhaus – a mountain stage win and King of the Mountains title last year.

On the other hand, the Tour de France this year is well-suited to Landa, with very little time trialling, complicated mountain stages and plenty of terrain for opportunistic, unplanned attacks of the kind he relishes.

“We’ve got a strong team with Movistar to take on Sky if [Chris] Froome finally does race. Tom Dumoulin won’t be taking part [the Dutchman’s participation in the Tour remains unconfirmed – ed.] and riders like [Rigoberto] Urán and [Romain] Bardet are very similar to me when it comes to time trialling. It’s going to be a very motivating year.”

Landa insisted, too, that there would be no problems in sharing a team with Quintana. “It’s all fine,” he said. “I’ve been in this situation before, and we’re both clear that we’re racing for Movistar, and we’ll start out [the season] as leaders, together with Valverde. Then the road will decide.”

Landa was enthusiastic about the Vuelta route, which was unveiled on Saturday. “It’s a very challenging Vuelta a España, from the first day to the last. You’ve have to be sure you reach that last mountain stage in Andorra feeling strong,” said Landa, who added that his motivation is all the greater given that he has already won one very difficult Vuelta stage in Andorra, back in 2015.

The stage through the Basque Country, his home region, with a summit finish on Mont Oiz, also caught the eye. “It’s very inspiring as well, particularly for a climber like me,” Landa said.

Following the Vuelta presentation in Andalusia, Landa will return to Spain’s most southerly region in mid-February for his first race of the season, the Ruta del Sol, which will mark his debut with Movistar.

The Cyclingnews Podcast in association with Prendas Ciclismo and Pinarello

 

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