Mikel Landa (Movistar) will be a man on a mission in the closing three days of this year’s Tour de France.
The Basque climber vows to go all-in with long-distance attacks to make a miraculous bid for the podium. On paper, that looks about as realistic as a Frenchman winning the Tour again. But this has been a very different Tour, and Landa’s morale is flying high as the race tilts into its final battleground.
“We saw in the Pyrenees that I am in good shape so that gives us some hope,” Landa said at the finish line Wednesday. “Tomorrow is the big day, so let’s hope that I am at my best level.”
Landa knows it won’t be easy — five riders are stacked within 39 seconds of each other behind race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) who holds yellow by 1:35 — but also knows he has nothing to lose. He will start Thursday’s stage, the first of three climbing stages, in seventh overall at 4:54 back.
That means he’s currently 3:07 off the podium. That’s a huge gap, especially considering the quality of riders ahead of him.
“I will fight for every second on every mountain in these final stages,” he said. “Now we’re getting into favorable terrain, the high mountains, and that’s what I trained for after the Giro.”
By his own admission, Landa is fed up with close calls and near misses. Hailed as one of the most talented riders in the bunch, Landa doesn’t have the results to match the hype.
Everyone knows his talent is there. It’s just that sometimes he’s been on the bad side of luck.
In 2016, he missed the final podium in Paris by one second to Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale). And in this year’s Giro d’Italia, he lost another podium to Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) by just eight seconds.
“I am going to try to hit the podium in Paris,” Landa said. “I did it in the 2015 Giro without even really trying, but ever since then, things have slipped through my hands.”
Landa certainly hasn’t helped himself so far. He gave up huge amounts of time in both time trials.
A week ago, Landa was in the gutter, both literally and emotionally. It was on stage 10, the decisive transition stage that saw a split in the peloton. The Movistar contender was there until he wasn’t. A bump of wheels in the bunch saw Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) accidently knock Landa into a ditch.
Before he knew it, Landa went from riding in the key selection to losing more than two minutes, which all but killed his GC chances.
“I lost 2:09 for something that wasn’t even my fault, and I didn’t even want to listen when they said to try to keep fighting,” Landa said. “Now things are different. The morale is growing.”
Landa’s fortunes rebounded in the Pyrenees, where he and Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) both emerged as the strongest climbers in the race.
If he can continue to surge, Landa could pull closer to the lead than anyone could have believed a week ago.