Basque rider Mikel Landa moves to Bahrain-Merida in 2020 and leaves behind Movistar where he said the “overlapping objectives” were a problem.
Landa rode with Astana, Sky and Movistar in recent years, placing third overall in the Giro d’Italia and fourth in the Tour de France. At Bahrain-Merida, he hopes to have space to spread his wings.
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“The sports directors we had at the Tour de France deserve credit because they had to manage the race while having three leaders within the same team,” Landa told Radio Vitoria.
“I have a good relationship with Nairo Quintana, as with other team-mates, but the problem has been the overlapping objectives within the same sports group.”
Quintana won the Tours 18th stage to Valloire. However, he admitted later in the race that he was not in best shape to fight for the overall classification. At that time, the Spanish super-team already spent resources on riding for the Colombian, who is moving to Arkéa-Samsic in 2020.
Landa sat in the back seat with his group of men protecting him and watching rivals like Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal at Team Ineos. He rode to an eventual sixth overall behind Bernal, the race’s first Colombian victor.
Since May, the deal with Landa and Bahrain had been spoken of and on August 5, the Middle East team confirmed it. Starting in October, long-time Team Sky Coach Rod Ellingworth will direct Team Bahrain-Merida. Landa already knows him from the 2016 and 2017 seasons with Team Sky.
“I am very excited about the new project at Bahrain-Merida. I’m returning again to a foreign team, but it is something that I have already done before,” he continued.
“I think that a good team is going to be formed for 2020 and that I am assured of being a leader in the important races.”
Pello Bilbao could be switching from Astana to join Bahrain as well. Star rider Vincenzo Nibali is leaving for Trek-Segafredo.
Nairo Quintana will be racing next at the Vuelta a España, his last Grand Tour with the team. He too recently complained about the many leaders.
“That is the idea, to be able to find a team where I feel comfortable, where they can support me 100 per cent,” Quintana told Blu Radio.
Movistar head to the Vuelta a España starting next Saturday with Quintana, Marc Soler, Giro winner Richard Carapaz, and Alejandro Valverde.
“We must wait to see what the team orders will be,” Quintana said. “The team also considers all of them leaders.”
Landa will race the Tour of Britain next and the Classics through Il Lombardia. Then he will plan 2020 with the Olympic Games in mind.
“It is a very special year. [The Olympics] makes it complicated to ride two Grand Tours like the Giro or the Tour. I love the Giro but the Tour is the Tour,” Landa said.
“It is not decided but normally, I’ll go to France and have the option of racing the Giro again in 2021. We must finish this season and then we will see.”