Mikel Landa has recognised that knowing the steep uphill finish on stage 2 of the Vuelta al País Vasco very well was a definitive advantage for him as the Sky rider took his first victory of 2016 for his new squad on home soil.
The Basque rider's breakaway to victory on Tuesday was, like last year when he won a stage in Pais Vasco at Aia, his first win after a uneven start to the season, with his first race delayed by over a month.
Landa reflected, too, that hopefully this is the start of a successful run at the Giro d’Italia, in which he finished third last year and which will be his big target this year.
Landa’s home town of Murgia is just a few kilometres away from the stage finish in Baranbio and his extra motivation to win on local soil was, he said, a key factor in his determination to go clear of Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo).
“On an occasion like this when it came to winning, what I wanted in my head was as important as my legs,” Landa observed shortly after crossing the line. “There were other things that helped, too, the cold and rain in the first part of the stage really made a difference and was good for me, as did knowing the finish so well.”
“But I really can’t believe that I’ve managed to win, it’s still sinking in.”
Having performed above his own expectations, Landa says that he will have to take defending the race on the day by day. “Sergio [Henao, third] is the leader for Sky here, and I could crack tomorrow. He’s got a lot more race days this season. So I’ll have to take it on the day by day.”
Whilst stage 3 from Vitoria to Lesaka is probably the most straightforward of the entire race and Landa should have few problems defending his lead, stage four could well be to Landa’s liking. It features three ascents of Aia, the climb where he won last year, the last 13 kilometres before the finish in Orio.
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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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