They reached Milan with five stage wins, second and third place overall, the teams classification and the white jersey of best young rider, yet the defining image of Astana’s Giro d’Italia may well be the sight of two directeurs sportifs side by side in the team car on the road to Sestriere, each talking into his own radio.
Mikel Landa’s fierce attack on the slopes of the Colle delle Finestre on Saturday afternoon didn’t just thrust maglia rosa Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) into a wholly unexpected crisis, it also threatened to see him – once again – usurp the team’s anointed leader Fabio Aru, prompting Giuseppe Martinelli and Alexander Shefer to rein him in at the base of the final climb to Sestriere.
Throughout the final week, Landa had appeared visibly stronger than Aru every time the road climbed, but – thanks in no small part to Contador’s tight marking on the road to Cervinia on Friday – he found himself in third place overall ahead of the penultimate stage, 5:15 down on the maglia rosa and 38 seconds off his teammate’s second place.
Speaking to Cyclingnews in Saint-Vincent at the start on Saturday morning, Landa downplayed the notion that he would try to contest Aru’s second place on the Giro’s final mountain stage. “I don’t think I’ll be able to attack because Fabio is my teammate, but if Alberto goes, I’ll have to go with him,” he said.