While the British WorldTour team’s record at the other two Grand Tours – the Tour de France and Vuelta a España – is highly impressive, the Giro has always seemed to slip through their grasp.
Spaniard Landa already has a proven record in the race, having placed third in the 2015 edition while riding for Astana. He was drafted into Sky the following year, specifically to target the Giro, but withdrew from the race due to illness.
Welshman Thomas, on the other hand, has not ridden the Giro since 2012, where he placed 80th. However, he has placed 15th overall in the past two editions of the Tour de France while in the service of overall winner Chris Froome, pointing to the potential for something greater. Now he has his chance to prove it. In his favour, the race’s two long individual time trials would appear to play to his strengths.
The signs are good. Thomas has just won the Tour of the Alps, where Landa placed fifth overall – proving that it is possible to have two leaders in a climbing-focussed race and have them finish high up on GC. But that was only over five days, and not the 21 of the Giro.
Landa is arguably the stronger climber, with an ability to alter his speed on the Giro’s steep ascents and make or follow attacks, whereas Thomas has the better form against the clock. Between them, the bases are covered – but will it be enough?
Sky are evidently very ,very serious about staking their claim on the Giro podium, backing Landa and Thomas up with a strong selection of domestiques and climbing support. It’s one of the strongest teams on the start list.
Sky will have to tackle defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and 2014 winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) head on. Quintana in particular has also got a very strong team behind him, plus the personal experience of leading and winning the race. There’s more of a question mark over Nibali’s team, after he moved from Astana to newly-formed outfit Bahrain-Merida for 2017.
The 2017 Giro d’Italia starts in Sardinia on Friday, May 5, and concludes in Milan on Sunday, May 28.