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Landa not giving up hope for grand tour win

Landa relishing opportunity to lead Bahrain-McLaren at grand tours after several seasons working for teammates.

Basque cyclist Mikel Landa, now with new team Bahrain-McLaren, is not giving up hope of eventually winning a grand tour.

Landa joins his new team after two years with Movistar, and says the “opportunity comes at the right time” to be the undisputed leader of a team.

“This opportunity comes at the right time: I am 30 years old,” he told Tutto Bici. “I don’t lack experience and I’m joining an ambitious formation.”

Landa has raced with Euskaltel-Euskadi, Astana, Sky, Movistar – and with each of these big teams, he was always helping the star riders. At Astana, he helped Fabio Aru to second place behind Alberto Contador in the 2015 Giro d’Italia. He finished third place. In Team Sky, he helped Chris Froome win the 2017 Tour and he placed fourth overall, one second behind Romain Bardet in third.

Recently in Movistar, he helped Richard Carapaz win the 2019 Giro d’Italia and he paired with Nairo Quintana in the Tour de France. This off-season, Landa, Quintana, and Carapaz are all leaving the Spanish WorldTour team for new destinations. Landa joins Bahrain-Merida, now Bahrain-McLaren for 2020, as its grand tour star Vincenzo Nibali moves to Trek-Segafredo.

“It’s a great honor [to be filling his shoes], because he’s a champion I admire. I’ll try not to let them down,” Landa continued.

“The fourth-place finish in the 2017 Tour de France, one second behind Romain Bardet and the podium [means the most]. I can’t time trial? I answer with a name: Richard Carapaz. If he managed to win the last Giro d’Italia, it means that we climbers must not stop believing.”

Landa will meet with his new team with new boss Rod Ellingworth, who he knew from Team Sky, next week at a training camp in Croatia. He and the Middle-East/English team will create a roadmap for 2020. Landa could race the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, or just aim at the Tour de France. He indicated that the Tour is “probably” the plan.

“He’s starting to get to grips with what it takes to be a leader,” Ellingworth said of Landa in an earlier interview. “And I think he’s bloody dangerous in the third week if the course is right for him. We’re going to find out.”

Time could be running out for Landa, 30 next week, and others of his generation, especially with new talents like 22-year-old Egan Bernal coming through. Bernal signed with Team Sky, now Ineos, for 2018 and rode his first grand tour in the Tour de France to help Geraint Thomas win. He returned in 2019 as co-captain and won, the youngest to do so in cycling’s modern era.

“Egan is not unbeatable, but he is certainly a very complete racer: extraordinary uphill, especially at high altitude, he also races well in the time trial,” Landa said.

“McLaren’s involvement in the team may be our extra weapon. In the coming weeks, probably in January, I will go to [the team’s base in] Woking to do tests in the wind tunnel.”