Landa: It’s time to start again after difficult 2018

It’s a case of new year, new outlook for Movistar’s Mikel Landa. After enduring a disappointing 2018 season, his first at the Spanish team, Landa outlined his plans for 2019, including racing the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.

Landa, president of the Euskadi Cycling Federation, spoke to Spanish newspaper Marca, at the presentation of the setup’s Continental and amateur teams. The 29-year-old revealed his frustration at how the season turned out.

“It was a very difficult year, but that doesn’t take away the resolve to start again,” he said. “I arrived at Movistar with high expectations and much enthusiasm. [But] it was the year that I finished the most frustrated.”

Landa’s sole win in 2018 came at Tirreno-Adriatico in March. He would later form part of Movistar’s three-pronged attack at the Tour de France but finished seventh, despite outperforming teammates Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.

A serious crash at the Clasica San Sebastian derailed the remainder of his season, with Landa suffering a fractured verterbra and rib. Despite aiming to take part in the Vuelta, Tour of Britain and then the World Championships, he was forced to miss out on them all.

“Most of all, I didn’t know if it would be cured. With injuries you never know when they end, and no matter how hard you try, your body responds in one way or another, and to not make it despite the effort I made frustrated me. I needed to disconnect from everything.”

But that’s in the past for Landa now, with a new season on the horizon and training in the Canary Islands having gone well.

He’ll begin his season on Spain’s other archipelago, the Balearics, with the Mallorca Challenge, before heading to the Vuelta a Andalucía, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Ardennes Classics.

“[I’ve] made a good plan until the Giro to make it there as best as possible, and then… I’ll do what the body asks for the Tour.

“I did well in 2017 (Landa won a stage and mountain classification at the Giro before taking fourth at the Tour) and I’m going to do the same; try to reach 100% in the Giro and hopefully 99% or 101% in the Tour.”

Landa’s bid is unlikely to be a Giro-Tour double in the sense of Marco Pantani, or Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin’s 2018 attempts, though. Back in 2017 he targeted the Giro’s mountain classification before racing for GC at the Tour.

Something similar is likely this time around, with Quintana’s focus on the Tour likely to see Landa in more of a support or freelance role. The 29-year-old doesn’t see it as a risk for his chances, in any case.

“The Giro is a race that I'm good at, in case I'm not good at the Tour. I would say that it is a calendar more conservative than risky.”

If 2017 is the goal then Landa can be hopeful – he has some precedent in following up disappointing years with outstanding performances. 2015 saw him take three Grand Tour stage victories and third overall at the Giro, for example.

“It’s true, both in 2015 and 2017 the situation at the season start was similar to now, and I achieved results. I hope that in 2019 the story is repeated.

“In terms of performance, I have felt good many times, but I haven’t been able to prove it.

“[From those years] the desire to attack remains – to keep the race in check where possible. I think I have that, but I’ve added a little more responsibility. Sometimes I’m a little more conservative.”

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