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SALÒ, Italy (VN) – Mikel Landa says that he’s going into the Giro d’Italia’s final week confident in his form, the strength of his teammates and his possibilities of finishing on the podium in Verona next Sunday, believing that the stages remaining offer him the opportunity to capture what has hitherto been an elusive grand tour title.
Third in the 2015 corsa rosa and fourth in 2019, the Bahrain Victorious climber sits fourth overall, 59 seconds down on race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), ahead of Tuesday’s big mountain stage from Salò to Aprica.
“I’d like to be as high as possible on the podium,” he said in his press conference on the third rest day. “I’ve dreamed many times of racing and winning the Giro and at the moment this year there are still options, so let’s keep dreaming.”
One of the strongest climbers on stage nine to the Blockhaus, Landa said that there have been few opportunities since then for the contenders to test each other out, explaining that it’s been very cat and mouse.
“The favorites have been watching each other because we all knew that it would be difficult to find stages in the second week on which you could make a difference. We’ve all just focused on to trying to get through the stages with as little fatigue as possible and without any setbacks,” said the Spaniard.
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The one exception to that was last Saturday’s stage into and around Turin, where the oppressive took a toll on many. Landa ceded 36 seconds to his most direct rivals Carapaz and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Jai Hindley.
“The Turin stage was very hard. Nobody expected Bora to set the pace that they did. They rode super strong and they made a big, big difference between the big contenders and all of the other riders,” Landa said. “I didn’t feel very good. It wasn’t the best route for me either, and I think that the stages ahead will be more suited to my characteristics.”
Asked which of them he’d picked out as toughest, he replied, “Almost all of them. There are four very tough stages, especially tomorrow [Tuesday] and Saturday. So every day will present a new opportunity. I’m feeling good. I think we’re finally reached the most suitable part of the course for me, and the team is also in good shape, so I’m happy about that. But I think the other contenders are also feeling good. Every day there’s a rider who surprises you, so you always need to be ready.”
— Team Bahrain Victorious (@BHRVictorious) May 21, 2022
The Spaniard said he’s relishing stage 16 to Aprica, which features three mighty passes: the Goletto di Cadino, the infamous Mortirolo and the extremely testing Valico di Santa Cristina, from which the riders will drop into the finish at Aprica.
“It’s going to be a super hard day, with 5,000 meters of climbing. The Santa Cristina is a very steep climb,” he said. “My experiences of the Mortirolo have always been good. I’ve got good memories and I’m always happy to see the Mortirolo, so that’s an extra motivation.
“I think that tomorrow and the day after to Lavarone, even though they aren’t summit finishes, have very hard finals, so they could be the ones that suit me best. And Saturday’s stage too to the summit of the Fedaia. I prefer these longer climbs at high altitude, and very hard stages coming consecutively should be better for a rider like me.”
Landa: ‘I think there could be surprises this week’
Landa pointed out that the way Bora turned the race upside down in Turin highlighted the possibility that the fortunes of each of the contenders could ebb and flow in the Giro’s closing days.
“I think there could be a lot of surprises this week. Every stage could turn the general classification upside down because there are consecutive hard stages where there can be differences. So maybe one day we’ll see a great performance from a rider, then the next day he might lose time, and then the next day be good again. I think we’re going to have an interesting week,” he said.
The 32-year-old Bahrain leader agreed with the suggestion that experience might come into play in such as a tightly balanced contest.
“Looking at how old Jai Hindley and João Almeida are, I’ve certainly raced a few more Giri than they have,” said Landa, whose now in his seventh edition. “I’ve had good and bad experiences. You learn from all of them and maybe that little bit more experience is one of the things that can make a difference.”
Could this be the moment for Landismo reach its greatest peak, for Mikel Landa to win a Grand Tour after so many near-misses and setbacks?
“We’re about to start the third week. I’m one minute away from the pink jersey and I think everything is going according to plan,” he said.