Mikel Landa collapsed beyond the finish line at the summit of the Marmolada, needing several minutes to recover from his huge final effort on the steel final ramps of the Dolomite climb at the Giro d'Italia.
It was worth it. As Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) danced away and into the maglia rosa and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) cracked, Landa was able to pass the Ineos Grenadiers leader and then in the final kilometre he tried desperately to take enough time to move up to second overall.
At the line, Landa had put 38 seconds into Carapaz. He is now only 26 seconds behind him in the overall classification but faces a huge task to snatch second place in Sunday’s final time trial.
“I suffered a lot all day, and it was so hard,” Landa said after recovering from his huge effort. “It still seems like a big gap between us, but if Carapaz is in a bad way, who knows? We’ll try. Until the last km, this is not finished.”
Landa again had support from his Bahrain Victorious teammates, who ominously lead the GC peloton for much of the 168km stage through the Dolomites.
He started the stage 1:05 down on Carapaz and 1:02 down on Hindley and so needed to attack early on the steep final six kilometres of the Marmolada. However, just like on most key stages, Landa was unable to break free, seemingly to labour and push a big gear, rather than attacking at speed in his signature style with his hands on the drops.
“I wasn’t in a good place all day and I couldn’t follow the team,” he admitted. “It was a very hard stage, there was a tailwind, so it was a very fast stage and fast on the climbs. Then the last part was just agony.
“Fortunately as we climbed, I could stabilise things and saw Richie [Carapaz] wasn’t in a good place. The longer the climb went on, the better I felt.”
Whatever happens against Carapaz in Sunday’s 17.4km time trial, Landa has survived to make his Giro d’Italia a success. Last year, he crashed out and has often endured bad luck and been sacrificed for team tactics.
He finished third in the 2015 Giro d’Italia after respecting the Astana team orders and went on to finish fourth in the 2019 Corsa Rosa and fourth in the 2017 and 2020 Tour de France. In 2021, he crashed out of the Giro on stage 5 and then climbed off during stage 17 of the Vuelta.
With Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) over five minutes behind in fourth place, Landa can try to snatch second from Carapaz and savour his place on the final podium in Verona. Landismo lives on.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.