Mikel Landa suggested that his move from Team Sky to Movistar had given him a 'ganancias marginales' – a Spanish marginal gain, making him happier as a person and giving him the freedom to ride more aggressively so that he can win races like Saturday's mountain stage to Sarnano Sassotetto at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Landa attacked three kilometres from the finish without having to worry about team hierarchy because he is Movistar's leader for the Italian stage race. His surge cracked former team leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), and he managed to cross to the select group of attackers. He was unable to distance them in the final two kilometres but still had the strength to kick hard on the downhill finish and so cross the line with his arms in the air to movingly remember Michele Scarponi.
Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) was second and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) third, with the other overall contenders spread across two minutes.
It was Landa's first victory for Movistar after his transfer from Team Sky. He seems convinced of his Movistar 'ganancias marginales' and wasn't afraid to explain why.
"Yeah, maybe I can consider moving to Movistar a kind of marginal gain," he said sincerely when it was put to him.
"Maybe I'm happier; perhaps that is because of the way we ride. It's better for me, it's a better way for me to ride as we saw today. It's different, there's less control and more chance to attack.
"It's a cultural or character difference," he said. "This team is closer to who I am. The way we do things [at Movistar] are different, even the way we eat and the way we joke around."
Dedicated to Scarponi
Landa seems to enjoy causing mischief whenever he speaks to the media and is laid back about life and his ambitions. He is also sensitive.
As he crossed the finish line he pointed to the sky to remember Michele Scarponi, 24 hours before Sunday's stage finish in the late Italian's hometown of Filottrano. Scarponi won the 2009 Tirreno-Adriatico and also won three stages - in what was his local race - each March when Tirreno-Adriatico reached the Adriatic coast and the Le Marche region.
"We're close to Scarponi's home. We always remember him, but today even more so," Landa said, emotion taking over his voice.
"Michele was always happy and made everyone smile. After what happened to him, I always think of him and especially so in the final metres. I think I made a nice gesture to remember him."
Asked about the growing number of road accidents and deaths involving cyclists, Landa made a heartfelt plea for understanding from car drivers.
"There are more and more riders on the road, and its up to us to make sure driver understand that we're the weakest out there. It's about sharing the road. We ride bikes, drive cars and walk on the road. It's important to respect cyclists."
Tour de France ambitions
Landa moved up to fourth overall on Saturday and is now 20 seconds behind new leader Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing). However, former leader and former teammate Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) is only six seconds behind, and so Landa knows even a podium finish will be difficult.
He is more ambitious for the summer, confirming that he will be part of Movistar's triumvirate at the Tour de France, along with Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.
"Movistar is a major team, and so it's important we target the Tour de France. I'm happy to ride the Tour de France with a strong team," he said, unconcerned that Movistar's team at the Giro d'Italia will be far weaker.
Of course, riding with Quintana and Valverde could mean Landa will not have a leadership role, undermining the very reason for his move from Team Sky to Movistar.
"I think it'll be different," he argued. "The team has worked for me here. I don't think it'll be different in the summer."
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