Mikel Landa has told Cyclingnews that one of the main reasons he is moving to Bahrain Merida for 2020 is for clarity on team leadership. With Vincenzo Nibali moving on to Trek-Segafredo, Landa will join Bahrain Merida as a Tour de France and stage race leader for next season.
Wout Poels has also been signed by new team manager Rod Ellingworth, while Rohan Dennis' future at the team has still to be confirmed after his sudden abandon at the Tour de France.
Landa's race programme has yet to be defined but he will likely target the Tour de France.
“I’m very excited. Bahrain Merida is going to have a refresh with McLaren and I’m happy to have the chance of leading them. I don’t know my programme yet, we still have to speak but for the team the Tour de France is the goal. I’m ready to lead a team. I’ve got that goal and that’s what I was looking for,” Landa told Cyclingnews.
“It’s a big team, they like the Grand Tours and they’ve given me the chance to be the leader. “I don’t know who is coming yet but for sure they’re making a big team for the Grand Tours. I’m not worried.”
Neither is he phased by the notion of additional pressure at a team that have their sights on eventually ending Team Ineos’ dominance at the Tour.
“I don’t know about which Grand Tour I’ll do but probably it will be the Tour, yes. It’s pressure but I’m ready. It’s what I’m riding for and if I have all that I need then all I need to do is ride my bike.”
The 29-year-old Spaniard has spent the last two seasons at Movistar, where although he has enjoyed leadership status, it has always come with the caveat of sharing responsibilities with Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, as the team contentiously decided on a three-pronged attack at the Tour. When Landa was given more of a leadership role at the Giro d'Italia this year he found himself playing second fiddle to teammate and eventual winner Richard Carapaz.
It’s a tale that has dogged Landa throughout much of his career. At Astana he was forced to sacrifice his chances for Fabio Aru, while at Team Sky he was further down the pecking order due to their Grand Tour arsenal.
Although Bahrain Merida have announced that Wout Poels would also be joining their ranks, Landa remains their GC focal point for next year. He has five top-ten finishes in Grand Tours to his name, while his last four starts have all heralded top ten-seven finishes. Even if he remains the unfinished and at times frustrating article at times, he is still impressively consistent over three weeks.
“First off they were very interested in me some years ago,” he said, when explaining his desire to join the team.
End of the Movistar experiment
Leaving Movistar closes a two-year chapter at the Spanish team for Landa. His time there heralded consistency but he was rarely a winner, with just two individual wins to his name during that spell.
When it comes to the Grand Tours and the question mark of leadership he describes the situation as ‘complicated’ especially in light of the team’s decision to bring multiple leaders to the Tour de France for the last two years.
“Yeah for sure. If you have a teammate that has the same goal as you it’s more complicated because your teammates have to work for both of you and not just one. One day you can be feeling good, and your teammate not so good, and you end up needing to look out for him. It’s more complicated,” he said.
“At the Tour we were three riders with the goal of being on the podium but it’s not easy. It’s not my decision though. It’s the management's. Maybe I didn’t win as much as I expected but I learned a lot and I had a good experience with my teammates.”
The move to Bahrain Merida also sees Landa link up with Ellingworth, who he worked with at Team Sky. With Poels joining and Britain's Scott Davies on the way, the team have attempted to improve their stage racing quota, while Mark Cavendish is likely to boost sprint line-up.
“I met Rod at Team Sky. I’m excited. I think that he has a lot of experience and I think that he’s very good at controlling everything,” said Landa.
The Spaniard is unsure if Rohan Dennis will be at the team by the time he arrives for the 2020 season. The Australian has not raced with Bahrain Merida his controversially abandoning the Tour de France in July.
“I don’t know if he’s going to be with us. For me he’s fantastic because he has a lot of experience in the time trials and I need that,” Landa concluded.