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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España: Mikel Landa downplays podium hopes

Spanish GC star finally put a series of grand tour setbacks and close calls to bed with third at the 2022 Giro d'Italia.

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Mikel Landa is downplaying his podium ambitions for the Vuelta a España, but he still wants to animate the roads in his “home” grand tour.

The Bahrain Victorious captain raced last week at the Vuelta a Burgos for the first time since hitting third on the Giro d’Italia podium in May. He wasn’t surprised that he wasn’t flying.

“I was a long time without racing and now I am only starting up again. The idea to go to the Vuelta tour was to regain some racing rhythm,” Landa told AS. “It was obvious that the Burgos tour was going to decide a little bit my objectives for the Vuelta, above all if I decide to go for the GC or to hunt stages.”

A modest 44th overall in the race he won last year ahead of the 2021 Vuelta says it all.

“I think right now I will be looking for stage wins,” Landa said of the upcoming Vuelta, which starts August 19 in the Netherlands. “The podium looks very far away right now.”

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Earlier this season, Landa finally put a series of grand tour setbacks and close calls to bed when he hit third overall at the 2022 Giro. It was his first grand tour podium since 2015 despite twice finishing fourth overall at the Tour de France.

Landa is one of the peloton’s most consistent grand tour riders. He’s finished in the top-10 and no worse than seventh in the past six grand tours he’s finished dating back to the 2017 Tour de France.

Last year, he returned to the Vuelta for the first time since 2015 as a pre-race favorite, but abandoned in the final week as he struggled with form in the wake of his devastating crash at the 2021 Giro.

Landa said the stages near the end of the first week could suit him well, and warned that the penultimate stage in the mountains north of Madrid could produce some surprises.

“It blew apart the race in 2015,” he said referring to Fabio Aru dropping Tom Dumoulin. “So maybe it can happen like that again. For me, I really liked the stages in northern Spain. Let’s see what happens.”

Landa agreed that the 2022 Vuelta will be more wide open without the presence of riders like Tadej Pogačar or Primož Roglič, who remains uncertain if he will be defending his title.

“It’s true that riders like Pogačar and Roglič are more the favorites and the control of the race is left in their hands,” Landa said. “Without them, I believe the race will open a bit more and it will be contested in a different manner.”

If he’s not racing to win, who does Landa see as favorites?

“The Vuelta will be good for them,” he said, referring to Giro winner Jai Hindley. “The Vuelta is more explosive than the Giro and they are riders for this type of profile. There are time bonuses every day and that suits them well.

“Remco [Evenepoel] should go well,” Landa said. “What he did at the Clásica de San Sebastián was amazing. I see him capable doing just about anything during the Vuelta.”