Landa relishing shot at sole leadership

With Nibali moving out, the Basque rider is hoping he will be the center of a team's GC ambitions for first time of his career

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Mikel Landa is hoping his move to Bahrain-Merida for 2020 will give him clear GC leadership opportunities going into next year’s grand tours.

The Basque rider has always ridden in the shadow of another GC captain, as was the case during tow seasons at Team Sky, or shared leadership duties, as it’s been during the past two campaigns at Movistar where he, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde split responsibilities across the season.

With Vincenzo Nibali moving to Trek-Segafredo next season, Landa will have an open road ahead of him going into the major races in 2020.

“They’re giving me the opportunity to be the leader of the team, and that’s very motivating,” Landa said in the radio interview. “I’ve been on a foreign team before, and I felt very comfortable, so I am looking forward to it.”

Landa, turning 30 in December, will have the opportunity to lead, but also the pressure that comes with it. Landa’s been often frustrated during his career, whether by missing the 2017 Tour de France podium by 1 second, or having his options shut down by a teammate.

Landa downplayed alleged tensions inside the Movistar team bus over the past two seasons, saying the dynamics of having two or sometimes three leaders in the same race created “complicated” outcomes for the riders.

“It’s complicated to manage a team when there isn’t one clear leader,” he said. “When you have three leaders, everyone is looking out for their interests. Everyone wants to achieve their objectives. It’s complicated. You cannot ride against one of your own teammates even though you might be feeling great.

“I have a good relationship with Nairo [Quintana], just like the other teammates,” he said. “The problem was with competing objectives inside the same group of cyclists.”

Landa will cool his jets for the remainder of 2019. After a break, he will return at the OVO Energy Tour of Britain and close out the season with the Italian fall classics.