Spanish stage racer Mikel Landa will bid adieu to Team Sky and head to rival Team Movistar for 2018 and 2019.
The team revealed the news in a release on Tuesday.
“For us it’s great news,” said Movistar General Manager Eusebio Unzué in a release. “By age and what he is demonstrating, he is the rider called to lead the Spanish cycling for the next few years.”
The news ends several weeks of speculation about Landa’s future following his impressive fourth-place finish at the 2017 Tour de France. Landa, 27, rode in support of winner Chris Froome during the three-week race, but appeared to have stronger form than Froome on several stages. On the 12th stage of the Tour, which finished to the Peyragudes ski area, Landa finished 17 seconds up on Froome. In the Alps, Landa then took turns attacking with Froome on the summit finish to Col d’Izoard.
After the race, Landa was linked to Movistar, however no official word of the transfer was made until Tuesday.
A talented climber who can also time trial, Landa burst onto the scene as a Grand Tour threat in 2015 when he finished third place at the Giro d’Italia while riding in support of Fabio Aru for the Astana team. The impressive ride caught the attention of Sky, which hired Landa on for 2016 and 2017. Landa’s Giro campaigns for Sky were thrwarted by sickness and crashes: he was a DNF at the 2016 Giro and won the King of the Mountains prize at the 2017 Giro. Landa showed his true value at the Tour, where he slotted into Sky’s talented lineup of domestiques.
The move brings yet another top Spanish rider to the Movistar operation, which has built a tradition as Spain’s top Grand Tour team over the last three decades. Over the years the team has operated under title sponsors Banesto, Illes Balears, and Caisse d’Epargne, and its riders have included Pedro Delgado, Miguel Indurain, and Alejandro Valverde.