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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Mikel Landa knows he will be the second option again at the Tour de France behind Nairo Quintana, says his new team Movistar.
Landa joined the Spanish squad from Team Sky after two years working for Chris Froome. Ahead of the move this winter, he said he no longer wanted to be the second option after playing that role at Sky and at Astana with Fabio Aru.
In the French grand tour this July, however, Spain’s WorldTour team will first rely on Colombian Nairo Quintana, twice second behind Froome. Spaniards Landa and Alejandro Valverde will offer a plan B for Movistar.
“It’s a step towards [leadership] here,” sport director José García Acosta told VeloNews of Landa. “We also have Quintana. It’s a particular year with the Vuelta and Worlds [for Landa] at the end.
“The Tour leader? Ha! I think in theory it’s Nairo. We have three options, and the road should decide. Mikel knows that, anything can happen in the first week and it’s very complicated. But normally, it’s Nairo who’s the leader.”
Landa told Spanish daily AS this winter, “That time of being a helper is over. I was stopped both in Astana and Sky, when I had legs to win. If you tell me to stop again, I won’t. It’s my turn to pursue my goals.”
When asked if Landa was instead the plan B again in Movistar, García Acosta said, “It’s going to be open, there are many opportunities that we will have to see day by day.”
The 28-year-old Basque cyclist enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2017. He began the Giro as a co-leader with then teammate Geraint Thomas. Both crashed in stage 9 due to a parked police motorbike, but Landa was able to continue on and won the Piancavallo mountain stage and the blue mountains classification jersey. In the Tour, he helped Froome — at times he looked stronger — and finished fourth overall, one second behind third-place Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
“[Team Movistar is] a little different, maybe easier for me to be more comfortable on this team,” Landa said. “People are more like me, the change was easier. They’re Spanish. Not only for the language, the behavior of the riders and directors. It’s closer to me.
“I know Sky/Froome very well, I was with them two years so it’s helpful. I knew how they race, how they feel, how they manage the situation, how they control the race. They also know me, so we are in the same condition.”
Even with the leadership not 100 percent placed on Landa, Movistar is backing its home star for the Tour more than Astana or Sky did in previous seasons.
“We are there also with Valverde, we have a big advantage to have three leaders for the GC. We have to agree and use that,” Landa said.
“It’s a big support to have the team pushing you from the beginning of the season. It’s important.”