The stage 14 Giro d'Italia finish at the Sanctuary of Oropa proved to be a site of salvation for Mikel Landa. The Team Sky rider showed signs of recovery following the stage 9 crash en route to Blockhaus which prematurely ended the Giro for stablemate Geraint Thomas.
Stage 14's ascent of Oropa, the first mountain top finish of the Giro since Blockhaus, saw maglia rosa Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) take the victory but third place for Landa provides a blueprint for Sky's approach to the remainder of the race. Stage wins via its climbing contingent lead by Landa.
"You always want to win, but I have to remember that six days ago I crashed and I have pain so I have to be happy. The team were helping me and they were focused on the race. We have one week to race and it would be nice for us to get a stage win," said Landa.
Coming into the Giro as one of Sky's co-leaders alongside Thomas, Landa suffered leg injuries in the Blockhaus crash and surrendered close to 30 minutes to stage winner Nairo Quintana to end his GC aspirations. His 'boomerang' attack on stage 11 resulted in more time loss to ensure Landa will be no threat to the overall standings and will be allowed some freedom in chasing stage wins via breakaways in the third week of the race.
Sunday's stage 15 of the race is one suited to a breakaway with the double punch of the Miragolo San Salvatore and Selvino climbs before a downhill run into Bergamo. However, the mountainous third week is likely to provide better opportunities for Landa who took back-to-back stage wins in 2015 on his way to third.
"I am feeling healthier and better day by day. I hope after the rest day I will be 100 per cent," added Landa, who rose to 42nd on GC after his third place.
Sky's chief sport director, Dario Cioni, explained the plan for the stage was to deliver Landa to the victory and while they missed their target, the performance bodes well for the days to come.
“It was a good result and Mikel showed he was one of the best climbers. It boosts morale for the next week and we can really go for the race win," said Cioni.
"The plan was to give Mikel the chance to have a stage win and the guys did a good job and delivered Mikel in a good position at the base of the climb."
long with Landa, Sky can also look to Sebastián Henao, Diego Rosa and Kenny Elissonde as potential stage winners and support for Landa in the high mountains.
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