Vincenzo Nibali’s team more wary of Mikel Landa than Geraint Thomas at Giro d’Italia

Bahrain-Merida say Team Sky's Mikel Landa will flourish more in the mountains than Geraint Thomas in their joint leadership bid

Mikel Landa in 2016 (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Vincenzo Nibali and his Bahrain-Merida team worry more about Team Sky's Mikel Landa than Geraint Thomas ahead of the Giro d'Italia, starting Friday in Sardinia.

Nibali, a two-time winner, named Nairo Quintana (Movistar) as his number one rival today and behind the Colombian, Landa and Thomas.

>>> Nairo Quintana’s complete guide to the Giro d’Italia 2017

"Quintana is the first rival, then Landa, I saw that he's on the rise, slowly," Nibali said. "Then Geraint Thomas, and after him, all the others who are improving.

Sky, after trying to win their first Italian Grand Tour title with Rigoberto Urán, Bradley Wiggins and Richie Porte over the years, will start with two captains in Thomas and Landa. Nibali already counts two victories in his home tour from 2013 and 2016.

52nd Tirreno - Adriatico, NIBALI Vincenzo (ITA) Bahrain - Merida
Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Nibali sat back in a brown leather chair to speak to journalists. Outside the windows of the Villa Las Tronas, sun reflected off the Mediterranean's emerald waters.

"Sky's double leadership? It depends how that role works in the team if there are really two captains, or one working for the other," he said. "In the past, I was at Ivan Basso's side. It doesn't matter if you have a good feeling between the two."

Nibali's trainer Paolo Slongo walked through the green gardens after the press meeting. He thought back to 2015, the year before Landa signed with Sky and when the Spaniard helped then Astana teammate Fabio Aru to second (and himself third) behind Alberto Contador at the Giro and later to victory at the Vuelta a España.

"When Landa doesn't have the pressure of the race, he is able to give more of himself," said Slongo.

"In Astana, he suffered from the weight of the responsibility, but when he had a team-mate he could race better without the total weight.

"We said that it was better two have captains than one. If there is a good feeling between them, it gives an advantage. So it's an advantage, when there are only a few riders up front, you can send Landa up the road, or visa-versa."

"So he is more worrying on the big climbs, more so than Thomas. Even with the time trials, the Giro is better for Landa."

Brent Copeland, Bahrain-Merida's manager from South Africa, just finished talking with Bahrain's tourism official who flew to Sardinia for the team's debut and agreed that Landa would be the bigger threat in the mountains.

"It can work to have two cards to play as long as it unrolls each day so its fair to each rider, and the roles are explained from the beginning. Then it can work out," Copeland said.

"Is Thomas or Landa a bigger threat? It's more Landa. The Giro climbs are suited to him more than Thomas."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.