FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Spaniard Mikel Landa‘s days of waiting for leaders like Chris Froome and Fabio Aru are over and, if he feels up for the victory, he says he will charge ahead.
Movistar signed Landa for the 2018 season after he spent the last two years with Sky and the two before with Astana. In the 2017 season as he worked for Froome, he missed a chance to finish on the Tour de France podium by one second.
Landa placed fourth overall at 2:21 behind Froome (who won his fourth Tour title), 1:27 behind Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac), and one second off of Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).
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“With that gap it hurts even more,” Landa told Spanish daily AS regarding missing out on the podium spot. “That is why I intend to race for myself, so I don’t have regrets for not getting what seems within my reach.
“I faced three weeks of braking, in the service of Froome. I knew what I was going for, although I would have appreciated if they had helped me get on the podium in Paris.”
Sky let Landa lead its Giro d’Italia teams in 2016 and 2017. Due to stomach problems in 2016 and a crash this May, however, he could not reach his full potential. He did continue this year despite the crash to win the Piancavallo summit finish and the king of the mountains jersey.
At the Tour, it appeared as though Sky held Landa back when Froome suffered. Still, the 28-year-old from the Basque Country dutifully worked for the team.
With his contract nearing termination, Landa’s value soared over the reported 1 million euros that he was already earning. Movistar stepped in to sign Spain’s top stage racer. Along with Colombian Nairo Quintana and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, he will lead the Spanish WorldTour team in the Tour next July.
“In Astana and Sky, I had no problems with languages or adapting, but I barely caught the jokes,” Landa added.
“I never felt bad [in the foreign teams], I was always comfortable out of competition with cyclists and assistants. I just needed a director to bet on me. That’s what I’m looking for with Movistar.
“No [there will be no friction with Quintana]. That time of being a helper is over. I was stopped both in Astana and Sky, when I had legs to win. If you tell me to stop again, I won’t. It’s my turn to pursue my goals.”
It is unclear how Landa and Quintana — who twice finished second to Froome in the Tour and won both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España — will share leadership duties at the Tour. Much could change between now and then, though, with crashes, sickness, or fitness level.
Landa added, “I understand that Nairo stresses his status as a leader. He wants his opportunities, like me. I deserve my chance and we will complement each other.”
Landa’s 2018 season starts aT the Vuelta Andalucía on February 14.