Having moved into second place on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Mikel Landa laid it on the line on the final day of racing in his bid for the win. The Movistar rider ultimately came up short, his second place on the stage to Arrate not enough to take yellow off the shoulders of Primoz Roglic.
"We really tried it, and I think that you've got to be happy with a second place when you see you've done your best to drop the leader back until the very last day," said Landa. "It was a day with lots of different battles. We weren't really paying that much attention to Roglic's crash in the beginning because it was already tough to follow the pace at the front of the bunch. There was no team keeping things really under control, and there were lots of attacks. We didn't know if he would bridge back, but as soon as he made it to the group, things calmed down. Our first goal was trying to get a man into the break, and we achieved it – it was sad, though, to see a part of that strategy somewhat ruined when Trek started pushing so hard at Elgeta, and got us too close to the break. We then went too afraid of pushing hard at Ixua, because we wanted Rojas and Betancur to play their role after that climb in case we could leave Roglic behind."
With Roglic isolated and Movistar going all in to push Landa into the race lead, the 28-year-old explained that although they didn't achieve their goals it was a pleasing performance. Nairo Quintana's fifth place overall capping off the week for the Spanish squad.
"We still tried to go on the attack against Roglic at the Ixua climb, but he was able to follow our moves quickly. We weren't really able to drop him and we saw there our chances to win the race were slim. I even attempted to jump from the bunch at the descent before San Miguel; it was a twisty section, quite dangerous, I saw Rojas a few meters ahead and didn't want to miss that chance. After that, it was mainly about the stage win. It's awful to get so close and still don't win – Mas managed himself well with that short gap and the toughest part of Usartza was maybe a little bit too short for me – but for the rest, we must stay satisfied, even more so considering the great job everyone in the team did, especially during the last two days."
Landa's overall result is his best yet since joining Movistar from Sky and winning a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico. The result is also his best to date in a one-week WorldTour stage race. Next for Landa are the Ardennes classics followed by a rest before he turns his attention to the Tour de France.
"Roglic kept his composure, made the right moves and won this thing in a great way. I might have lacked that half a minute we all lost at Zarautz's finish on stage win; should I have stayed with Roglic and Alaphilippe, things could have been way, way tighter at the end. However, I can't ask for more: if you think about it, at the time trial, against a specialist like him, it was certain I would lose time, and I don't regret about any attack we went for during the last two stages. I'm so happy about the team's attitude and the level all of my team-mates showed this week. It wasn't a course that suited me 100%, yet I managed to finish in 2nd place and fight for the win until the final stage, so I must remain happy about this week. Now I'll be heading to the Ardennes classics, probably Flèche and Liège – I want to enjoy those classics and support Valverde, who will be in fantastic form. After those races, it will be time for me to rest."
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