ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) — Everyone in the Tour de France peloton seems to be on their knees after three days across the Alps. Except Team Sky.
Yet Movistar���s Mikel Landa sees a ray of light. The former Sky rider is sensing a few fractures in Sky’s Fortress Froome.
“We are seeing Sky strong, but maybe they’re not as strong as a unit as they have been before,” Landa said after Thursday’s stage 12. “That gives us a little bit of hope to be able to do something in the Pyrénées.”
Landa rode two seasons in Sky colors and was instrumental in helping Froome win last year’s Tour en route to his own fourth place overall.
From the outside, Sky might seem as strong as ever. Landa, however, sees hints of an opening to attack Sky’s flanks.
“These three days have been brutal in the Alps and we saw Sky a little bit more tired as well,” Landa continued. “If there’s an opening, we have to be ready to take it.”
Landa’s take might seem a little off-kilter considering how Thomas has won two stages in a row and holds a commanding lead over his teammate and defending Tour champ Froome.
But Landa is also seeing how Thomas and Froome might start to fray at the edges if the leadership issue isn’t resolved. Team Sky continues to say its first bet is on Froome.
“I don’t know how they will handle [leadership],” he said. “Sky is always strong, and Froome is always good in a grand tour, but the Tour is far from over. We have to keep fighting, be it the podium, a stage win, or whatever.”
Movistar has done its best to take it to Team Sky for two days in a row with mixed results. Alejandro Valverde attacked Wednesday and Thursday but lost time, while Nairo Quintana struggled to keep pace Thursday and on Alpe d’Huez lost 47 seconds to Thomas. Landa rode through back pain to fight for the stage 12 win, crossing the line fifth at seven seconds back. Landa, who crashed heavily on the cobblestone stage, leads the Movistar “blues” in seventh at 3:13 back.
“My back was hurting even worse today than it was yesterday. When I make a hard push, I can feel I am losing power,” Landa said. “I gave it a little run there at the end, they caught me, and I ended up even losing a little bit more.
“I am very satisfied, to tell the truth. On the first climb and descent, I was really suffering, and I had in mind to go home. That things turned around and I was able to be in the fight leaves me very satisfied.”
Landa vows to keep fighting and is emerging as Movistar’s best GC candidate after the team came to the Tour with three options.
“I have a problem; I know I should be there, but my crash at Roubaix is really impacting me,” Landa said. “The last week the heart and the head will count for even more.”