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Nibali: Chaves could fill Landa's shoes

As Mikel Landa headed to Bologna airport for a flight home from the Giro d’Italia after being struck by a stomach virus, the peloton and the rivals he was expected to challenge rode north to Asolo.

Landa was one of the big three favourites for this year’s Giro d’Italia, alongside Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). The loss of the Basque rider will simplify the race tactics but the first half of the Giro d’Italia has indicated that the likes of Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL Jumbo), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) or Rafa Majka (Tinkoff) could step up to fight for victory. The loss of Landa is a boost for all of their chances but the riders sportingly refused to openly take advantage of his problems.

“I’m really sorry for Mikel but I’m sure Mikel will bounce back because he’s a good guy,” Nibali said at the start of stage 11 in Modena.

“The day after the rest day can sometimes be a problem. We’re used to a specific physical routine in Grand Tours and so if you don’t do things right, then you risk losing minutes on a stage when it starts with a climb like yesterday’s stage did.”

“Last year I had a similar problem but I was a fortunate to suffer on an easier stage which only had a climb in the finale. I managed to survive and limit the damage. Yesterday’s stage was hard and so quickly revealed Mikel’s problems. When he was dropped he opted to quit, I can understand that. It was a tough moment for him.”

Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli was more open about Astana’s satisfaction in seeing Landa leave the Giro with his tail between his legs.

“I’m sorry for him but obviously its better for us. I wont deny that as soon as he was dropped, we upped the pace to get rid of him,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Movistar manager Eusebio Unzue was more diplomatic, as was Valverde.

“I don’t know what happened to Landa but the truth is one of the big favourites is out. But that’s cycling,” Unzue said.

Valverde suggested that the loss of Landa will not change how the rest of the Giro d’Italia will be raced.

“Sometimes you can be on form and healthy but then you get ill, it’s all part of cycling,” he said. “It means there’s one rival less for us but it won’t change the Giro that much. It’s still going to be hard race and the third week will be decisive.”

Nibali tipped Chaves as the best candidate to step up from the list of potential overall contenders despite the Colombian climber losing time in the Chianti time trial.

“I’ve noticed that Chaves is riding well and he could fill Landa’s shoes. Perhaps Majka and Kruijswijk too but Chaves has looked good so far on the climbs,” Nibali told Cyclingnews.

“The loss of Landa doesn’t change much for me, there’s still a lot of pressure on my shoulders and expectations are high. I’m going to keep my feet on the ground and be happy with whatever final results comes along. I’ll simply fight till the end and race carefully while staying focused.”

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