Mid-way through stage 17 of the Vuelta a España it looked like Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), who saw his GC hopes evaporate early in the race, could be returning to form but it turns out that his powerful attack from the peloton was not a sign of resurgence but a last ditch effort.
During the first of two ascents of La Collada Llomena, Landa attacked from the peloton, delivering a turn of speed that quickly closed the gap to a large group that had taken off earlier on the climb.
The Spanish rider, who had entered the race as the leader for Bahrain Victorious but had clearly slipped out of contention by the end of stage 9, was all of a sudden raising questions over whether he had found his form in the final week.
The answer, however, was a clear no as later on the stage Landa abandoned the race.
“Today I tried to get the feeling with an attack to go in the break, but I still was not feeling good,” said Landa.
“I now need to focus on other goals and get back to my best. I wish the guys and Jack [Haig] to keep going strong and fight for the Podium in GC."
In May, Landa crashed at the Giro d’Italia, requiring surgery after he broke his left collarbone and suffered multiple rib fractures. He returned to racing at the end of July at the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa and looked to be well recovered and ready to chase his target of a podium at the Vuelta a España when he ended the Vuelta a Burgos with the overall win.
After the first summit finish of the Vuelta a España, Picón Blanco, Landa moved into the top ten overall, a promising start as he crossed the line in the same time as leading favourite Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). By the end of stage 9 it was clear his overall hopes were over as he finished more than five minutes back from the winner, teammate Damiano Caruso, and about four minutes back from race favourite Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
He then turned his attention to hunting for stage victories, putting his condition down to a combination of things including the length of time he was off the bike after his injury, the inability to train as much as he wanted as a result of the injury and lack of race rhythm.
“I have not been feeling at my best over the past week, and since the Giro injury, it has been a long road to recover and be ready for this race,” said Landa.” In Burgos, the feeling was good, but a Grand Tour is a different race.”
Jack Haig became the clear overall hope for Bahrain Victorious following stage 9 and as Landa abandoned on stage 17, which turned into a battle for the GC contenders, the 27 year old Australian shifted up to fourth spot overall. He is three minutes and 46 seconds back from leader Roglič and 35 seconds off the podium.
Swiss Bahrain Victorious rider, Gino Mäder, also moved up into the top ten after coming eighth on the stage to Lagos de Covadonga, arriving in the same group as Haig, who came fifth.
Roglič won the stage, finishing 1:35 ahead of the group of contenders, including Haig, and took back the red jersey of the leader in the process.
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