Mikel Landa has confirmed his move to Team Sky from 2016 in an interview with Spanish Basque newspaper Deia. The 26-year-old has enjoyed a breakthrough season with Astana as a climbing domestique for Fabio Aru while achieving personal success that included finishing third overall at the Giro d'Italia and most recently winning a stage at the Vuelta a Espana as Aru sealed overall victory.
With Aru and Nibali above Landa in the GC rider hierarchy, Landa explained he is joining the British team to pursue his own grand tour ambitions after two season with the Kazakh squad.
"The team has never considered me as a leader," Landa told Deia of his role within Astana. "I would like to have this responsibility on occasion. I don’t say this always because they already have their leaders who they have signed for this reason, but I would have liked a little responsibility, to feel valued in that aspect."
Landa opened his 2015 account with a stage win at Pais Vasco for Landa before going on to finish second overall to Richie Porte (Team Sky) at Giro del Trentino in preparation of the Giro. The victories continued at the Italian grand tour when Landa notched two stage wins on his way to third despite conflict between and himself and Aru over who deserved leadership of the team.
Despite only racing Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian and the Tour de Burgos between the Giro and Vuelta, fatigue prevented Landa from sustaining a second GC attempt in a three week race his season. Landa was able to secure a victory on stage 11 in Andorra, considered the most difficult Grand Tour stage ever, despite orders from the team.
"I think I could have ridden the Vuelta in another way," Landa said regarding the heat exhaustion. "I was [riding] with the best in the race and was even fighting for the podium and the general classification.
"I don't want to make excuses though, because everything has its reason. I didn't cope well physically and I wasn't adapting to the heat. I wanted to do well, but it was a desire and I couldn't. You learn from everything."
Landa explained Astana presented him possibilities for next season but with Aru and Nibali already fighting for grand tour leadership, he was disappointed with the race programme they were offering him.
When asked if the team had given him an explanation, his response was "no, nothing. In the race the work that they gave me was not that of a leader, simply put. Then, in the negotiations, they offer the race programme,which was not the best for me.
"[I was not in the] position to do it (ask for a better contract), nor did I have the power to demand it. After the Giro, I told them that I would not continue and I understood that they are backing Aru."
Landa is likely to fill the hole at Team Sky created by Richie Porte's move to BMC at the end of the season after helping Chris Froome to 2015 and 2013 Tour de victory and Bradley Wiggins in 2012. While Froome remains Sky's top GC rider, Leo Konig, Mikel Nieve and Nicolas Roche also have top ten grand tour finishes to their name and will provide Landa with competition for leadership in the Giro and Vuelta.
When asked what Sky had promised, he said: "Something that wasn't offered to me at Astana". He added: "Here (at Astana) they didn't have the place for another leader and this explains my decision. This year I have shown that I can win a Grand Tour and for that I need a team around me and Sky offered me this."
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