Mikel Landa spoke full of confidence and optimism about his prospects for the final week of the Giro d'Italia during the Bahrain-Victorious rest day press conference on Monday, suggesting there is plenty of time for the race to turn on its head in the closing stages.
Sitting just 59 seconds behind race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) in the Giro GC standings ahead of the stage 16 mountain stage from Salò to Aprica, Landa is dreaming of securing his first overall Grand Tour victory at this year's Giro.
“We’re about to start the third week," Landa said. "I’m one minute away from the pink jersey and I think everything is going according to plan.
“I’d like to be as high as possible on the podium. I’ve dreamed many times of racing and winning the Giro and at the moment this year there are still options, so let’s keep dreaming.”
Having achieved a career-best overall finish of third at the Giro in 2015, the 32-year-old is hoping to stand on the upper steps of the podium. With stages 16, 17 and 20 all containing especially gruelling climbs in the mountains, Landa argues he is perfectly suited to make inroads on the other GC contenders.
Landa spoke very positively about Tuesday's stage, from Salò to Aprica, with long forgotten climbs making their way back onto the Giro route. First, riders climb Goletto di Cadino - last tackled in 1998 on the occasion of the victorious ride of Pantani in Montecampione. From there, they will make their up Passo del Mortirolo.
Finally, the race will ascend Valico di Santa Cristina, last passed in 1999, as they reach Aprica. For Landa, Tuesday's stage seems one he has targeted as a potential decisive day.
“It’s going to be a super hard day, with 5,000 meters of climbing. The Santa Cristina is a very steep climb,” he said. “My experiences of the Mortirolo have always been good. I’ve got good memories and I’m always happy to see the Mortirolo, so that’s an extra motivation.
“I think that Tuesday and the day after to Lavarone, even though they aren’t summit finishes, have very hard finals, so they could be the ones that suit me best. And Saturday’s stage too to the summit of the Fedaia. I prefer these longer climbs at high altitude, and very hard stages coming consecutively should be better for a rider like me.
"I’m feeling good. I think we’ve finally reached the most suitable part of the course for me, and the team is also in good shape, so I’m happy about that.”
Despite his confidence, though, the Spaniard also suggests all it takes is one moment for a Grand Tour to be won or lost. Consequently, the final week could throw up some dramatic moments in the hunt for the maglia rosa, and he will no doubt hope to capitalise on any opportunities presented to him.
“I think there could be a lot of surprises this week," Landa said. "Every stage could turn the general classification upside down because there are consecutive hard stages where there can be differences.
"So, maybe one day we’ll see a great performance from a rider, then the next day he might lose time, and then the next day be good again. I think we’re going to have an interesting week."
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