Mikel Landa is prepared to fight for the 2017 Tour de France podium but underlines that assertion with the considerable caveat that he would only do so if it did not affect the chances of Sky teammate Chris Froome.
Froome himself praised Landa's move in Friday's breakaway, which pulled the Basque star back into potential overall contention as he regained nearly two minutes and moved up from seventh to fifth. Froome said that Landa's presence gives Sky two cards to play in the GC battle.
Even so, this is the first time that Landa has stated clearly how high he thinks he could go in the Tour, after his participation in the Giro d'Italia as a GC contender disintegrated when he and co-leader Geraint Thomas crashed into a badly parked police motorbike.
Although Thomas abandoned, Landa raced on through the Giro, racking up the mountains classification title and a stage win. He is now deep into his second Grand Tour of the year.
Speaking to Spanish radio on the morning of stage 14, Landa confirmed what he had told Cyclingnews earlier in the race: "I started off very cautiously, not sure how I would go and taking things day by day. But right now I'm feeling really good."
Landa confirmed that Sky now has two GC options and that Froome was pleased with how he had raced on stage 13, working with Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) to open up a gap of nearly three minutes on the yellow jersey - and the Briton - before ending the stage with a lead of just under two minutes.
"The team's in a great position and although we're obviously working for Chris here I think I'll be part of the game."
Asked directly if he saw himself winning the Tour, Landa said, "I don't think so. I'm still a minute down, and hopefully, I can fight for a place on the podium, but without affecting Chris's chances and trying to help him."
Leadership in Sky's Tour team, he told the radio stations, would only happen "if Chris has to abandon or starts going really badly. But I don't want to have that role here."
Landa's mission right up to the last day of the Tour de France is to support Froome. Rather than just backing the Briton though as a team worker, Landa's role would now be as a rider with GC options. "We'll have to use the fact that we've got two cards to play, and there'll be times when I have to go on breaks to put the rest of the contenders under pressure and other times I'm with him."
As for attacking with Contador on Friday, he reflected that going clear with the double Tour winner "made me dream a bit. He's a brave guy, he all but turned the race upside down, and that's benefited me enormously."
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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.
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