Mikel Landa was the first of Movistar's three team leaders to arrive at the Spanish team's Tour de France press conference on Friday, taking a chair on the left, before Alejandro Valverde took the middle seat and Nairo Quintana arrived last and sat on the right.
The seating plan gave little indication of the leadership hierarchy at Movistar for the Tour de France, with team manager Eusebio Unzue convinced he can manage the three riders' egos and ambitions to give Movistar their best possible chance of taking on Team Sky et al and finally winning the Tour de France.
Landa, Valverde and Quintana will, in theory, start the Tour de France on equal terms on Saturday, with the road and the racing to decide the eventual team leader. Unzue is keeping any other strategy close to his chest and there was no sign of any mutiny amongst the three for now. There was no murmuring from Landa and no signs of a 'Free Landa' campaign.
Landa's palmares arguably places him third in a table of merit within Movistar but he has youth on his side and is considered the future Spanish leader of the squad after leaving Team Sky. He is now 28 and has a contract until the end of 2019, while Valverde is 38 and Quintana continues to hint his next contract maybe with another team.
While Quintana appeared focused and rather serious in front of the gathered media, and Valverde was, as ever, composed and careful with his words, Landa seemed to be slightly overawed by the importance and presence of his teammates. They are equals for now but Landa showed youthful respect while continuing to show his free spirit that was somewhat suppressed at Team Sky.
Landa played with his mobile phone and sent the odd text message while his teammates gave their answers. He seemed bored by some of the more banal questions, but then his facial expressions gave away as much as his words. He seems ready to target the overall classification at the Tour de France if needed but is likely to accept an eventual change in the hierarchy within Movistar.
"Sharing this leading role with Alejandro and Nairo is great," Landa said. "Nairo, because of his palmares and experience; he has got more confidence on what he can do in this race, just like Alejandro. I'll fight to be up there with them, learning as much as possible from them, and take advantage of my chances during the race.
"My main strength compared to last year is that I'm more mature now, I have a clear plan in mind and also have a chance to do my own race."
Landa finished a surprise fourth overall in the 2017 Tour de France, despite having ridden the Giro d'Italia and riding for Chris Froome at the Tour. He was just one second off the third spot on the podium and that reaffirmed his Grand Tour potential. He left Team Sky for Movistar to avoid being forced down the Team Sky pecking order, seeming to prefer the more relaxed ambience of a Spanish squad. He was happy to be given a leadership role for the Tour de France, even if it has yet to emerge what that will become in the second half of the race.
"I'm in good condition, better than in previous years, because I haven't raced the Giro d'Italia before the Tour," Landa pointed out. "This year's preparations for the Tour have been more gradual. I'm coming here in better condition."
Despite a difficult debut with Team Sky in 2016, Landa eventually flourished and learned a lot at Team Sky. That inside experience could be valuable to Movistar at this Tour de France.
"I've seen how he and the rest of the team manage their efforts during a race. They measure well when they've got to spend energy, and that's what I like the most about their way of racing," Landa said of Froome and Team Sky but avoiding to comment on Froome's salbutamol case.
"At the start of this Tour, I'd say we're pretty much equal with Sky. Both of us are bringing well-balanced squads, with good riders all around. I don't think we have much to envy from them."
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