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Landa makes a single birthday wish for 'good health' in 2022

LAGOS DE COVADONGA SPAIN SEPTEMBER 01 Mikel Landa Meana of Spain and Team Bahrain Victorious competes during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021 Stage 17 a 1855km stage from Unquera to Lagos de Covadonga 1085m lavuelta LaVuelta21 on September 01 2021 in Lagos de Covadonga Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) during the Vuelta a España (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mikel Landa turns 32 on Monday, December 13th and when he was asked what he wanted as a birthday wish for his 2022 season, the Bahrain Victorious racer said it was very simple: "good health."

Landa's succinct list of goals for next season is understandable, given how his season was rendered far more complicated than he desired thanks to a major crash in the first week of the Giro d'Italia which left him with serious injuries.

He was able to return to racing in the summer and took a morale-boosting overall win at the Vuelta a Burgos before heading to the Vuelta a España. A wobbly start to the Vuelta seemed to confirm his uneven form and the Basque's only attack during the Vuelta, on an early climb in the second week on the Lagos de Covadonga stage, came on the same day he subsequently quit.

Landa's Vuelta attack and exit, all in the space of a few hours, summed up his season: the motivation was there and flashes of Landa brilliance remained but the opportunities, good fortune, and good condition never quite lined up in a way that enable him to fight for the 2021 Grand Tours.

"I always need a bit of luck, but if I am healthy then I can give my best," he told to reporters in a video press conference on Sunday from Bahrain Victorious' December training camp in Spain.

"Last year I had a very difficult season because of the Giro, so my one goal is to be competitive throughout."

Despite turning 32, Landa continues to be as ambitious as ever, with the rider naming a Grand Tour as the race he would like to win the most in 2022. This is despite his one visit to a Grand Tour podium being when he took third in the 2015 Giro d'Italia.

As for which race would suit him the most, Landa highlighted participation in the Tour de France as one big objective. The other, he said, would be the Giro, "because having so little time trialling makes it a great opportunity. I don't know whether I'll do one or the other, but ideally, I'd like to be in both."

Landa's dramatic exit from the Giro and gradual fizzling out in the Vuelta eclipsed the fact that he had a very solid start to the 2021 season. He scored sixth in his first event of the season, the Trofeo Laigueglia, third in another Italian one-day race, the GP Industria & Artigianato and third in Tirreno-Adriatico.

So it may be unsurprising that his off-season will be essentially the same as in 2021, with a second training camp in January followed by a start to the year in February.

"I've done a few changes on the TT bike, but nothing more special than that," he observed. "With a training camp now and another in January, it all goes around pretty quickly and hopefully I'm going to be in a good place when it comes to starting the year."

"I still want to be better and better so I have to find that continuity, improve year by year. Last season [2021] was a great one for Bahrain-Victorious, but I never feel exceptionally under pressure to perform. The more riders there are winning and doing well on GC, the better for the squad."

Having re-signed with Bahrain-Victorious until 2023, next season will be the first time Landa has spent more than two seasons with a single squad since his three-year spell with Euskaltel from 2011-2013. Since then the Basque has had two seasons apiece in Astana, Sky and Movistar, before joining Bahrain in 2020.

The  team's confidence in him will likely help Landa's quest to shine again in terms of his morale. But as the Basque recognised, it's staying healthy that will count the most in 2022.

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.