Movistar's Mikel Landa believes he can be competitive at this year's Tour de France, and is hopeful about making this year's podium, after just missing out last year. Ideally it would be the top step.
The 28-year-old Spaniard missed out on third overall at last year's Tour – his first Tour – by a single second, and so that third step is certainly well within reach.
"I didn't look at it as if it was important in the hours after the result," Landa said in a team press release on Wednesday. "I hadn't really looked at myself as a potential Tour podium contender during the race, and didn't feel disappointed about not getting that result.
"But as time went by, I started thinking more about it, and I'd of course have loved to be there. It made me sad, but also made me realise that I had to continue working hard in order to get there this year."
This year, former Team Sky rider Landa starts the race on July 7 as one of Movistar's three protected riders, along with Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde. Quintana has already spoken about how the trio's relationship is a good one, and it's a sentiment that Landa echoes.
"I've already completed two stage races with Nairo, and we got on well with each other," Landa said. "I've not raced as much with Alejandro, but he's a man with whom you get along instantly.
"Nairo is a born leader – one of the best climbers in the world – and one who can make any race explode when there are some tough slopes. Valverde is another great leader who can excel on any terrain. Among all the big candidates to win any Grand Tour, he's the man with the best all-round skills."
The remaining five riders in Movistar's eight-man squad – José Joaquin Rojas, Daniele Bennati, Andrey Amador, Imanol Erviti and Marc Soler – will have their work cut out to ensure that all three leaders are happy, healthy and kept safe during what is a treacherous opening week. But it's a squad, Landa says, that is up to the challenge.
"We've got a very competitive team, and that should help us work together more easily. We have a well-balanced team all-round, with skilled, expert riders – some of the best you could find in the peloton to take on such a challenge. It's a super team – one of the best, if not the best, in this race," he said.
"I'd like to contest the Tour de France victory," said Landa, "but we're yet to start the race and see how I can really do. Last year I was really close to finishing on the podium, and that makes me dream about being able to contest the win. I'm in good form, with good morale, mentally fresh, really excited and hopeful about my chances."
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