While the lion's share of the professional peloton have already started to rack up the kilometres, Mikel Landa will make his start to the season next week at the Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta del Sol, with his path to the Giro d'Italia now set in stone.
The Spaniard's relatively late start is still earlier than last year, when his first appearance in a Team Sky jersey was delayed until March due to a combination of illness and a need to commit to more training on the time trial bike. After attending Team Sky’s training camp on Mallorca a month ago, he has since completed a stint of altitude training on Mount Teide on Tenerife.
Landa will spearhead a strong Sky line-up in Andalucia, with Wout Poels, Diego Rosa, Mikel Nieve, Vasil Kiryienka, Christian Knees, and David Lopez also on the roster. Among his rivals are Alberto Contador and Ion Izagirre, both making their debuts for Trek-Segafredo and Bahrain-Merida, respectively, along with fellow Giro favourite Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), and others including Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac).
The five-stage race will enable the GC riders to test themselves with a summit finish on Peña del Aguila on day two, followed by an 11.9km time trial on the following day.
Landa's principal objective this season will once again be the Giro d'Italia in May. He was signed by Sky on the back of his performance in the 2015 corsa rosa, where he won two stages and finished on the podium, but he was forced to abandon early on stage 10 in 2016 due to a stomach bug. This year he is set to share leadership duties at Sky with Geraint Thomas.
Landa confirmed his pre-Giro race programme on Tuesday to Zikloland, the Spanish cycling website he helped to create. After the conclusion of the Vuelta a Andalucia on February 19, he will take a short break before heading to Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy from March 8-14, where he'll rub shoulders with many of the Giro favourites, and a week later he'll race the Volta a Catalunya (March 20-26). A three-week break will follow, likely to include a stint at altitude, before he looks to defend his title at the Giro del Trentino – now rebranded as the Tour of the Alps – as the final test ahead of the Giro, which begins on Sardinia on May 5.