Mikel Landa insists he is still going into the Giro d’Italia on equal footing with Geraint Thomas, despite not having won so far this season while his Sky teammate took a stage and the overall at the Tour of the Alps last week.
Ahead of his breakthrough Giro in 2015, Landa picked up a stage win at the Vuelta al País Vasco and finished second at the Alps – at the time the Giro del Trentino – and last year he repeated the trick in the Basque country before winning Trentino.
This year, however, he has finished sixth at Ruta del Sol, 31st at Tirreno-Adriatico – where Thomas was fifth with a stage win – and abandoned the Volta a Catalunya after an off-day. While it was Thomas who shone brightest at the Alps last week, Landa did give an indication he was heading in the right direction with fifth place, and he might have had a stage win had he not allowed his teammate to mop up the bonus seconds on stage 3 in a Sky one-two.
“I’m not going in worried. I know I’ve done some good work over the winter and that it has to bear fruit sooner or later. Even the previous winners of the Giro hadn’t won anything in the preceding months, so I’m calm about it,” said Landa in a Q&A interview with Spanish newspaper, Marca.
“It’s true [I haven’t won yet] but also the feeling I’m going in with is very good. Obviously I’d have liked to have achieved something beforehand, but that wasn’t to be. I finished Trentino very satisfied.”
In the interview, Landa was referred to comments made by Team Sky coach, Tim Kerrison, in an interview with Cyclingnews earlier this year, in which he explained that team management had gone through the Giro route in December and highlighted Thomas as the man for the job.
“At the end of that meeting I asked them, 'out of everyone in the peloton, and in our team, who is best suited to this Giro?' recalled Kerrison. "Other than Chris [Froome], obviously, Geraint was the next name that came up."
Despite those comments, and despite Thomas’ superior results sheet so far this season, Landa feels he has the full support of the team as a co-leader.
“They have confidence in me. If they didn’t, they would make me work for him, and that’s not going to be the case. People can interpret things how they like, but I feel their support and I don’t believe it will be lacking in any way," he said. "In my eyes, I’m a co-leader. I can’t do anything to jeopardise my teammate, but I know that I’m also going to look for my opportunity.
"We’ve had a good relationship since the Tour, when we were working together for Froome. The team is very relaxed, the two of us are going to play our cards and it will be the road that decides. It’s true that, with there being more time trialling than in previous years, Thomas might have an advantage and I suppose that’s what Kerrison was referring to."
Asked if he himself believed the route was better suited to Thomas, Landa simply replied: "That we do not know. Ask me on May 28."