Mikel Landa signs for Bahrain-Merida as team leader

The Spaniard will join up with new team principal Rod Ellingworth, the pair having previously worked together at Team Sky

Mikel Landa at Clásica San Sebastián 2019 (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bahrain-Merida have announced the signing of Mikel Landa from Movistar, with the Spaniard set to switch WorldTour teams for the start of the 2020 season.

This transfer had been strongly rumoured for a while, with Bahrain-Merida looking to replace Vincenzo Nibali, who will apparently leave the team to sign for Trek-Segafredo.

However, the deal appeared far from completed until very recently, with Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué saying towards the end of the Tour de France that the Spanish team “would like to continue working with him.”

Landa’s arrival comes as Rod Ellingworth was confirmed as the team’s new principal in June, with the 46-year-old now set to go up against his old employers Ineos, who he has been on gardening leave from for the past few months.

Commenting on his transfer, Landa said: “I feel very proud of Team Bahrain Merida who has chosen me to lead this project. I feel really excited for coming challenges.”

Leadership duties have often proved confusing at Movistar, with the Spanish team previously opting to take Landa, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde as a trio of leaders to races such as the Tour de France.

Other rumoured arrivals at Ellingworth’s new team are said to potentially include Pello Bilbao from Astana as well as José Joaquín Rojas from Movistar.

Movistar had already confirmed Nairo Quintana and Richard Carapaz will leave the team, the Colombian said to be off to Arkéa-Samsic and the Giro d’Italia winner moving to Ineos. 

Going the other way, the Spanish team have signed Gabriel Cullaigh from Wiggins-Le Col and also retained the services of 39-year-old world champion Alejandro Valverde until 2021.

Enric Mas has also been rumoured to be on his way to Movistar from Deceuninck - Quick-Step, with Unzué confirming on the Tour de France’s second rest day he had offered a contract to the 23-year-old.

Current team principal Brent Copeland, who will continue in a reduced role for Bahrain-Merida next season, said: “It is with immense pleasure that we welcome Mikel to our team, he is a rider who brings excitement to racing with his incredible climbing skills which makes him one of the most competitive riders for the grand tours, his consistent results speak for themselves and his exceptional experience is something that we at Team Bahrain-Merida know we can count on.” 

The British Formula 1 team McLaren are set to take a more prominent and active role in the team next season, with one source close to the squad saying there were plans to apply F1-level analytics to cycling and that the squad has ambitions to be “the Han Solo to Ineos’s Darth Vader”.

“With the arrival of McLaren to our team, we believe that Mikel will have even more benefits to take advantage of and this makes everyone at the team very enthusiastic,” Copeland continued. “We are sure the fans are just as excited as we are about his arrival as we all looking forward to cheering Mikel on”.

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.