Giro d'Italia: Persistence pays off for Landa with stage victory

Mikel Landa celebrated finally landing a stage victory at the Giro d'Italia but refused to get caught up in a debate about what he could have achieved if he and teammate Geraint Thomas had not been involved in the crash with a police motorbike on the road to the Blockhaus climb on stage 9.

Landa lost over 26 minutes that day and fought to stay in the Giro d'Italia after hurting his leg. Thomas opted to quit and recover in time for the Tour de France, while Landa fought on as a stage hunter.

Vincenzo Nibali beat him Bormio after the Sicilian caught him at the bottom of the descent of the Stelvio and then Tejay van Garderen also got the better of him in the sprint to Ortisei after another long breakaway.

Lands did not take any risks on the climb to Piancavallo on stage 19, dropping all his breakaway companions to win alone while wearing the climber's Azzurra jersey, which he is now certain to win in Milan on Sunday.

"Things can change so quickly in this Giro d'Italia, as we've seen. My last two days were tough but things changed today. I wanted to be strong in the final week and I've kept trying. I'm happy it's finally worked out," Landa said in the post-stage press conference.

"I don't honestly know where I'd be without the crash, who knows. Maybe I can show where I'd be next year…."

Landa movingly dedicated his victory to the late Michele Scarponi as he celebrated with his family at the finish. The two raced together at Astana before Landa moved to Team Sky in 2016, and the Basque rider suffered on the climb to ensure he could raise his arms to the sky to remember the Italian who died after being hit by a vehicle before the Giro d'Italia.

"With Scarponi's tragic death we lost a friend. We've remembered him every day and I didn't want to miss this chance to remember him with a victory," Landa said.

"This is perhaps my most beautiful (victory). I was suffering a lot in the last five kilometres. I knew they were chasing me and so I pushed, pushed, pushed.

"What did I learn after losing twice in the last few days? Not much if I suffered out there yet again. I'm joking. I learned never to give up and to believe in yourself."

The least Team Sky-like rider on the Team Sky roster

Team Sky riders are often described as being too robotic and almost afraid to reveal their true character to the media and the public. Landa, quite the opposite, is the least Team Sky-like rider on the Team Sky roster.

Despite a difficult 2016 season, his crash in this Giro d'Italia and his unique Basque character, Landa is keen to sign a new contract with Team Sky for 2018 and beyond.

"I think this win and my performance at the Giro d'Italia has shown that I can still try to win a Grand Tour," he argued making a perfect pitch for a new contract.

"Last year I went home on stage 9 or 10. This year I was caught up in the crash but I've had an excellent third week and I'm going well. I hope that's a sign of what I can do and helps people puts their faith in my ability so that I can perhaps stay here at Team Sky."

Landa hinted that he could be part of Team Sky's Tour de France squad rather than be a team leader at the Vuelta a España.

"We planned the season around the Giro and we haven't decided for the rest of the season yet. But the team could need a climber for the Tour and it could be me, so we'll see," he revealed.

"If I ride the Vuelta I'd love to win it but you've got to do what the team ask you."





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