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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: Mission accomplished for Mikel Landa in slow burn for pink

Bahrain Victorious wins the stage and positions Mikel Landa into a virtual spot on the podium going into the Giro's final decisive stages.

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The glass was more than half full for Mikel Landa in Wednesday’s grinding 17th stage despite seeing him lose a fistful of seconds to his direct Giro d’Italia rivals.

Landa bounced onto the virtual podium, now in third place at 1:05 back on the same day his Colombian teammate Santiago Buitrago at Bahrain Victorious won the stage out of a breakaway.

“I would say it was a very good day for us,” Landa said Wednesday. “We had another hard mountain stage, and on the second to last climb we took control. We put a higher pace to make the stage a bit harder.”

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With Buitrago riding clear in the day’s winning break, Landa’s teammates Pello Bilbao and Wout Poels took deep turns to whittle down the front group come crunch time in the GC selection.

Climbing with his hands on the drops in his trademark style, Landa tried to turn to the screws to podium rivals Richard Carapaz and Jai Hindley.

The leading pair countered, but Landa moved up after João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) ceded some turf along with some others, giving Landa some breathing room when he looks over his shoulder going into this weekend.

“We tried to drop some contenders, but we found Hindley and Carapaz very strong, but we gained some seconds to Almeida and that is a good sign,” Landa said.

Landa now leads Almeida by 49 seconds, who dipped to fourth in the virtual race for the final podium Sunday in Verona.

Sunday’s final time trial will already be on everyone’s tactical calculator, and Thursday’s transition stage offers the GC contenders a short respite before Friday’s and Saturday’s big final days in the Dolomites.

Even though he lost the wheel in the closing meters Wednesday that cost him six seconds to Hindley and Carapaz, Landa is steadily solidifying his position for a run at the final podium.

“I am happy with the team performance and I am super happy about Santi,” Landa said of Buitrago. “He’s been trying some days and today we saw the high class he has.”

Sometimes in bike racing it’s one step backward to go two steps forward.