Landa had already briefly been gapped on a steep, unclassified climb near Praia a Mare on stage 4. At the time he told Cyclingnews he had “not had his best day” but had managed to regain contact relatively quickly - despite Astana’s efforts to open up that gap.
On Thursday’s stage 6, however, at the race’s first summit finish at Roccaraso, Landa again looked to be a little on the back foot, although he remained with the main group of favourites throughout. Furthemore, having crossed the line in 14th place and 21 seconds down on race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), the Basque climber’s time loss was minimal. And as on stage 4, Landa finished in the same group as the top favourite for the Giro d’Italia, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). He is currently in 15th overall, 1:08 behind Dumoulin.
Never one to beat around the bush, Landa told a small group of reporters after the stage, “I didn’t have my best feelings today, for the last few days I’ve not been feeling too great. But thanks to the team I’ve managed to come through all right.
“It was a difficult stage but I’m optimistic about the future and I’m sure that in a couple of days I’ll manage to get better and get those great feelings back and be in the thick of the battle again.”
As for his rivals, Landa pointed, logically, to Dumoulin as the man of the moment, whilst he was convinced, he said, that Nibali would soon return to his very best condition.
For Landa and Sky the main concern for the short-term will be that the Basque returns to top form prior to the long time trial in Chianti, which he has already identified as a stage that does him no favours at all. Landa has worked on his time trialling over the winter but memories are still fairly fresh of his four-minute time loss to winner Alberto Contador in the Giro d’Italia individual time trial.
For the mid to long-term at the Giro d’Italia, Landa still remains more than upbeat about his chances, telling one Italian tv channel that he thought the Risoul stage was one that he particularly liked, and that the best stages for him were in the last week.
For now, though, the Basque climber will be concentrating on returning to the kind of shape that saw him win the Giro del Trentino last month.
The Alps and Dolomites are still a long way away.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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