Astana boss Alexandre Vinokourov has said he is keen to bring former team rider Mikel Landa back into the fold in the coming two seasons. Landa, who currently rides for Movistar, has already been linked with a move back to the Kazakh squad for next season as he searches for a team where he can take on sole leadership in Grand Tours.
While it now seems likely that Landa will stay put or the forthcoming season, with one year remaining on his Movistar contract, Vinokourov is not deterred and says he would try to have the Spaniard in back in the Astana blue the following year.
"He is a cyclist that I love," Vinokourov told Spanish publication Marca. "If it isn’t possible in 2019, we will try to sign him for 2020.
"I think that he can win the Tour de France. He has the potential to grow. He has a contract with Movistar and you have to respect that, but I have not hidden the fact that we have spoken with him and that we would love to have him in our ranks again."
Landa moved to Movistar from Team Sky over the winter, and is contracted to them until the end of next season. Both he and his teammate Nairo Quintana, who is also contracted until the end of next year, have been speculated to be making early departures, with both rumoured to be unhappy with having to share Grand Tour leadership.
Landa and Quintana were joint leaders, along with Alejandro Valverde, at this year’s Tour de France, where Landa finished seventh overall. They were due to do the same at the Vuelta a España but Landa was forced to miss the race after fracturing a vertebra in a crash at the Clásica San Sebastián.
Landa spent two seasons with the Astana team after signing for them following the collapse of the Euskaltel team at the end of 2015 season. With them, he finished third overall at the Giro d’Italia and won a stage of the Vuelta a España. Since his departure, he just missed out on a podium at the 2017 Tour de France with Team Sky. Vinokourov believes that he could have contested the Vuelta rostrum had he not been injured.
"He is one of the biggest riders. We have confidence in him. It has been a disappointment to lose him at this Vuelta a España because, without a doubt, he would have been a candidate to make the podium," said Vinokourov.
The Astana team already has two Basque riders within their ranks in Omar Fraile and Pello Bilbao and Vinokourov confirmed that he’s also put in an offer for the Izaguirre brothers, Ion and Gorka. According to Vinokourov, the brothers are talking with their agents and a deal is not yet 100 per cent confirmed.
"With [Landa] we would complete a real crack team," said Vinokourov.