Landa was brought to the team especially to compete for the general classification in the Giro d’Italia – an important race for Sky because a good deal of their sponsorship money comes from Sky Italia.
Six years after the team’s inception, Sky’s best performance in the race is Rigoberto Uran’s second place back in 2013, but riders like Sir Bradley Wiggins and Richie Porte have also tried and failed to come away with the maglia rosa.
With Landa climbing into the team car on stage 10, who will Sky pin their hopes to for the rest of the final two weeks and will anyone be able to mount a serious challenge near the top of the GC?
Last year, Porte was slapped with a time penalty for swapping wheels with an Orica-GreenEdge rider after a puncture on stage 10 and later abandoned the race, which allowed Leopold König the chance to take the lead and finish sixth overall in Turin.
It helped, though, that König was already reasonably high in the top 10 when Porte called it a day on stage 16 – this year Sky don’t have a well-placed backup, so much were they all in on Landa.
The top ranked Sky rider in the GC is now Nicolas Roche, but the Irishman already sits four minutes down in the overall standings and isn’t the kind of rider at this stage of his career who can make up such time on the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde.
Now that he will be able to ride for himself, though, Roche could well try and limit any more losses and thus move up in the classification.
This is all assuming, however, that Roche wasn’t one of the Sky riders to drop back and try to pace Landa back on to the peloton when he was struggling at the start of stage 10.
A bit of amateur investigation (by zooming into the picture tweeted by Marco Pinotti) shows that Roche’s Irish bands weren’t present on any of the Sky riders’ sleeves, so maybe he was told to stay in the pack.
How to make a Team Sky rider breakfast
More likely than a tilt at a top-10 finish in the overall, Sky will probably be looking to snaffle a stage win or two in the final two weeks to try and salvage something from the race.
Roche is one rider they may look to to accomplish this, so losing a bit more time on the general classification may not hurt his cause too much – the further behind he is the more likely the peloton will be to let him get out in breakaways.
The Irishman showed he’s still a force for stage wins at the Vuelta a España last year, taking on a similar role to now when Chris Froome abandoned in Andorra.
There are plenty of mountain stages coming up and Sky’s line-up is pretty packed with climbers. Ian Boswell is way down in the standings and is strong enough to win in the mountains, as is Philip Deignan, who won a stage of the Vuelta back in 2009.
There’s also Mikel Nieve and Sebastian Henao – one very experienced and a double Grand Tour stage winner and the other very young who could test his legs in the mountains now he’s free from the shackles of protecting Landa.
It’s even more of a shame now that Elia Viviani left the race after stage eight, with Sky now able to dedicate a full team to the sprinter rather than let him do everything himself like in the first week.