A crash on the opening day and missing a wheel in the crosswinds on stage 7 put Mikel Landa on the back foot going into the Pyrénées.
The Basque rider left the Pyrénées more optimistic than when he entered them.
Now 10th overall, the Bahrain-McLaren captain was able to follow the winning moves both days.
“I felt quite good and even though I can see some people are stronger than me, I don’t discount anything,” Landa said. “Maybe even the podium, or perhaps a stage victory if the opportunity presents itself.”
Landa entered this Tour as an overall outsider. In two hard days of racing, he solidified himself in the GC group. On Sunday, he finished in the leading group with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), stage-winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Emirates) and breakaway rider Marc Hirschi (Sunweb).
“Those were truly two very difficult days in the Pyrénées,” Landa said. “Roglič and Pogačar are the strongest right now. I have to be happy with how I rode.”
Landa entered Monday’s rest day in 10th at 1:42 behind Roglic, and goes into the second week wondering how different things could have been.
Landa forfeited 1:21 in the crosswinds Friday on the road to Lavaur, a critical time loss that he will have a hard time recovering against the likes of Roglic or Bernal.
“That time loss really cost me. I had a terrible night that night,” Landa said. “Because so far in the four days of climbing, I’ve finished with the first group of the top favorites for victory.”
This year’s Tour de France sees Landa take singular leadership in the Tour for the first time of his career.
After two unhappy years at Movistar, he joined Bahrain-McLaren with freedom to take his chances with the full support of a team.
Landa is keen to prove that he deserves the mantle of leadership and wants to finally deliver on his long-held GC promise.
Fourth in the 2017 Tour working for Chris Froome at Sky, Landa has also seen a string of close calls and near-misses in his grand tour racing career.
Landa said he’s been most impressed with Pogacar so far in this Tour, and hopes he can catch his wheel if the Slovenian continues to attack.
Like Landa, Pogacar lost time in the crosswinds, but attacked ferociously in the Pyrénées to claw back some lost ground to climb into seventh at 44 seconds back.
“Maybe we can form some sort of alliance of shared interests of trying to regain some ground,” Landa said of Pogačar. “So I will be watching his wheel in the upcoming stages.”
Landa pedals into the second week optimistic that if he can stay with the leading climbers some luck might finally turn his way.
“I’ve finished the first week off pretty well,” Landa said. “That crash on the first day really caused me some pain, and then losing that time in the crosswinds was a shame. There is still a lot of hard racing ahead.”