Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana are both vying for GC at the Tour de Suisse, but the result will not determine Movistar’s leadership for the Tour de France. The two leaders, along with Alejandro Valverde, are still attempting to sing from the same hymn book and preach peace and solidarity, with Landa stating that having three leaders at the Tour will be an advantage as the Spanish squad aims to end Chris Froome's and Team Sky's dominance.
"Everyone is thinking about it, but for me having three leaders at the Tour is an advantage,' the former Team Sky rider told Cyclingnews at the Tour de Suisse. "We’ll use it to win the Tour. I think it gives us a strength."
The first week of the Tour de France is littered with obstacles that could derail any prospective GC candidate, from crosswinds to cobbles, and several tricky uphill finishes that could be detrimental in the battle for the yellow jersey. Having an insurance policy that includes an additional two leaders rather than one is perhaps wise, but it also comes with added complications, not least how a team of eight can look after three protected riders.
"It's not a problem for me, to work for someone else. But like I said, we'll ride together and try and use that advantage. Protecting three leaders might be more difficult than covering one leader, but it's also a problem for other teams because if we get through the first stages together then it's the other teams that need to cover us," Landa added.
"I've only seen the cobbles for the route this year. I've never raced on them before and they are really hard. We went there as a whole team to check them out. But it's not just about the first week. All three weeks are important, and you can't lose time anywhere if you want to win."
Landa's move to Team Sky at the end of 2017 prompted doubt over Movistar's long-term faith in Quintana after the Colombian came up short against Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) at the Giro last year and then failed to challenge at all at the Tour de France. This year, Landa and Quintana have been put together in just one race so far – bar Suisse – with Landa taking second and Quintana fifth at the Basque Country. However the dynamic plays out in July, Landa puts forward an impression of building a relationship with Quintana.
"We're getting to know each other, and doing some races in order to learn to work together," Landa said. "At this race, Nairo and I are both leaders, but Andrey Amador is also looking good. We’re also thinking a lot about July. Then at the Tour Valverde will be really helpful too. He has a lot of experience and he’s had a lot of wins in cycling. He doesn't stress and he’s going to be a big help at the Tour."
Before the Tour comes around the small matter of Suisse must be decided. Landa has settled in well at Movistar and picked up a stage at Tirreno along with a number of top-10 places in the first few months of the season. He has not raced since the Ardennes, but his form over the opening few days at Suisse suggests that he will be in form come July.
"I'm in good condition," he said. "It's been a long time in between races for me, but I feel strong and I'll see how things go day-by-day. I'm not too much worried about the time lost in the TTT. We lost some seconds to BMC, but they're the best at the team time trials. We were happy with our ride."
As for his former team leader, Chris Froome, who continues to fight his case after returning an Adverse Analytical Finding for salbutamol at the Vuelta last year, Landa said: “I hope he is [tired at the Tour - ed]. He will arrive ready to do a good performance. I hope he will be a little bit tired, but we have to see. As for his case, I think, yes, why shouldn't he be there? He's doesn't have a penalty yet so he can race."
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