Mikel Landa spent the past four years being overshadowed by other Grand Tour leaders on his teams, first with Astana while working for Fabio Aru, and this year with Team Sky when he finished the Tour de France a single second off the podium while working for Chris Froome. Next season he heads to Movistar and has already been faced with comments from Nairo Quintana who earlier this week declared himself as sole leader of the team for the Tour de France.
In an interview with Mundo Deportivo, Landa explained that his 'free Landa' quip at the UCI gala was not a reaction to Quintana's comments, and said he expected Movistar's manager Eusebio Unzue to get the best out of both of them.
"I was there with all my teammates and it has been something that has always been taken in a good way, nobody took it badly," Landa explained of his exclamation to Mundo Deportivo.
"They asked if I would dare to say it on the last day with them and we had a good laugh."
Quintana told El Pais on Tuesday, "I am the leader of the team and I am the leader for the Tour", but added "If Alejandro [Valverde] comes to support me, it would be a blessing, and if Landa comes, the same. That would be a great team to take on strong teams like Sky."
Landa said that he had not yet read Quintana's comments before the UCI gala, and that the joke was not a reaction to his new teammate's statement, but said, "Obviously, I would have liked to get a different welcome, but I'm going to his house, and from what I can see, it looks like he doesn't like it."
Unzue, Landa says, "will be able to manage our egos well and get the most out of everyone."
Landa echoed some of Quintana's sentiments to Mundo Deportivo, saying that sharing the responsibilities of leadership is an advantage. "It takes a little bit of pressure away," Landa said. "Having him on the same side I think it can be very positive and between us, we can do much more damage than individually."
Landa looked back on his years with Team Sky and said he leaves feeling like he was unable to achieve what he set out to, challenging for a Grand Tour. "The Giro, one year because of illness and another by a crash; The Tour, because I went to work [for Froome]. I have not been able to take advantage of what the team could offer me. But at the same time, I learned a lot. I have raced alongside Froome, one of the best teams in the Grand Tours ... All considered it was positive."
His comeback in the Giro d'Italia, a stage win in Piancavallo, and his strong performance in the Tour de France was a confirmation of what he did in 2015 when he finished third in the Giro d'Italia behind teammate Fabio Aru and winner Alberto Contador.
"2017 has given me a lot of confidence and I believe that I have matured a lot as a cyclist and as a person," Landa said.
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