Despite sitting more than three minutes down, Mikel Landa still harbours hopes that he and his Movistar team can take overall victory at the Tour de France and believes he has seen the first signs of panic from Team Sky on stage 12 on Alpe d'Huez.
Landa's former teammate Geraint Thomas won his second consecutive stage to extend his lead in the overall classification, but the Spaniard believes that the team looked rushed and there will be moments when that can be exploited in the coming stages.
"To win it will be really complicated, we know what is to come but we have to go and fight for the victory, a podium, whatever it is," Landa told the press after the stage. "Today, I think that we saw Sky a little more hurried, although they have won again. I think that with every day that passes, we can open up options."
Landa was the picture of pain just beyond the finish line on the Alpe d'Huez. As the assembled Spanish media waited patiently to hear his thoughts, Landa coughed and sputtered, stretched prone on a concrete wall. Landa had to dig deep to get back to the leading group after he was distanced during the string of attacks and he wasn't yet ready to ride the brief distance to the team hotel atop the Alpe.
"The day was really hard for me after hurting my back in the crash," Landa said. "I have tried to forget a little bit about the pain and get into the race but Alpe d'Huez was really hard, Bernal set an asphyxiating rhythm and later I was always on my limit. In the end, I think that I can be satisfied."
Landa did eventually re-join the other general classification contenders inside the final three kilometres, before launching an attack with only a few hundred metres to go. Though, he would eventually lose seven seconds to Thomas, plus the additional bonus seconds.
"When I was able to get back in, I saw that there were so few, I said to myself, 'better to go ahead and they can catch me than to be behind and stay put,'" he said. "But, I suffered a lot, my back is screwed and I was suffering, that's the truth. It is a muscular problem and I would really like to forget about it, I cannot let the crash get to me."
Nairo Quintana would fare worse, losing 47 seconds after he was distanced with six kilometres to go. Movistar set to animate the race once again by sending Alejandro Valverde up the road. This time, he would go in the early move, but it still wouldn't work out for the 38-year-old and he added a further 4:29 to his deficit, putting him down to 12th and well out of contention in the overall battle. However, Landa insisted that Valverde still has an important part to play.
"We tried to make it hurt a little more, we have this intention, but it did not come," he said. "Whether he is a leader or not, he has a lot of importance, look at all of the work that he did today. Leader or no leader, he is an extra teammate."
On the battle for leadership between his two former teammates Thomas and Chris Froome, Landa believed that Froome would still rise to the top.
"Thomas is very tough, but Froome is a great rider. He will be the reference point in the end."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.