Mikel Landa: ‘All aspirations were lost in one second, but knew I could still get something the Giro’

Team Sky's Mikel Landa says he is delighted with his stage win and KOM jersey despite seeing his GC hopes evaporate early in the Giro d'Italia

A parked police motorbike ruined Mikel Landa’s bid for the Giro d’Italia general classification, but Team Sky‘s Basque rider says he kept hope leading to stage 19’s summit finish victory at the Piancavallo ski resort.

Landa slipped away by 26-56 minutes in GC due to the stage nine crash ahead of the Blockhaus climb. Sky’s second leader Geraint Thomas crashed as well and abandoned due to the injuries.

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“Things can change so fast in the Giro,” Landa, dressed in the blue mountains jersey, said after his win at 1290 metres.

“All the aspirations of this Giro were lost in one second [in the crash], but I had the tranquillity of knowing that I had good form and knew if I could recover from the injuries, I could still take something from this Giro in the final week.”

Landa escaped with American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) in stage 18 and lost the mountain sprint in Ortisei. Earlier, in stage 16, he had escaped over the Stelvio Pass and placed second in Bormio as well.

Mikel Landa wins stage 18 of the 2017 Giro d’Italia (Credit: Sunada)

The persistence paved the way to a strong 106-point lead in the mountains classification and an eventual stage win in Italy’s northeast Alps.

The move came on the 15-kilometre Piancavallo, Landa moved free of his last rivals around 10 kilometres to race and won with 1-49 minutes over Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates).

“I was close on two occasions, and I knew I had to try again,” he continued. “I finally got the win, and I am so happy.”

He knew the taste of victory even if some time had passed. In 2015, he placed third in the Giro d’Italia behind leader Fabio Aru and winner Alberto Contador, and won two summit-finish stages.

Sky signed him that winter from team Astana to lead the Giro team and help Chris Froome in the Tour. When he led last year, he abandoned midway in with stomach problems. This year, a motorbike ended his and Thomas’s chances early.

“I don’t know how I could have been this year, I will tell you next year. Looking at the favourites, I still see that Dumoulin was so good. For me, he is the maximum favourite,” Landa continued.

“I learned that you have to keep pushing, keep working, and keep fighting, especially in this sport. If you keep doing that, something good can come.

Mikel Landa is congraulated by Dave Brailsford on stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia (Sunada)

:This gives me a lot of confidence because it proves to myself and to everyone that I am good in the final week of the Giro. This proves that I can be a three-week stage race contender.”

Will that happen with Team Sky? Reportedly Landa could sign with Bahrain-Merida or return to team Astana at the end of 2017 when his contract expires. For the remainder of the season, Sky’s top brass still needs to decide his programme.

“The program was to ride the Giro and Vuelta, but maybe the team needs one more climber, and I might be going to the Tour,” he said.

“If I go to the Vuelta, of course I’d like to win it. It’s up to the team.”