Stage 14 of the 2016 Vuelta a España, which finishes with an ascent of the 17km Aubisque climb in the French Pyrenees, will be “the hardest single day in the 2016 race,” Mikel Landa of Team Sky believes.
“That’s going to be a crucial stage,” Landa told Cyclingnews after the Vuelta a España’s presentation in Santiago de Compostela. “It’s a hard route throughout, but that’s a really tough one.”
When it comes to identifying such difficult stages, Landa has firsthand experience in the matter: in 2015, he won the Vuelta’s hardest mountain stage through Andorra, with more than 5,000 metres of vertical climbing, with a spectacular lone breakaway.
“There are a lot of very nervous stages with spectacular, explosive finales, which is good for me. The more mountainous stages, the better.”
Landa says that the race’s stages through the Basque Country - where he comes from - are ones he is particularly looking forward to. The Vuelta’s last visit to Bilbao, was in 2011, with his then Euskalte-Euskadi team-mate Igor Anton taking an emotionally charged lone win for the local Basque squad. “It will have the same finish as back then” - with a twin assault of the Vivero climb - "and any race that goes through the Basque Country is one that’s special for me.”
Landa is more cautious about predicting the importance of the 39km final time trial from Xavea to Calpe, although he says that the coast roads of Alicante “are more difficult than they might seem from a route profile, where it looks pretty flat. But this far away in time from the race itself, you can’t say how much the time trial will matter.”
Overall Landa has finished 25th in the Vuelta a España in 2015 and 28th in 2014, and has ridden and completed it every year since his first participation in 2012. But he is not yet certain that he will be taking part in 2016. “My first goal is the Giro d’Italia, I’ve got to do that first,” he tells Cyclingnews. “After that, we’ll see.”