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May 16, 2016 – As the Giro d’Italia reaches its second rest day, Mikel Landa sits in a strong position with his favourite terrain to come.
Team Sky/Yuzuru Sunada
The Spaniard ended stage nine on a high with a rousing performance in the time trial, taking time out of a number of key rivals to place himself firmly in the general classification mix.
One minute and 18 seconds off pink – but importantly placed right amongst his rivals – Landa has emerged from an always difficult opening week full of optimism.
“We’ve finished the week with a gap of less than a minute to the favourites and I’m really happy to be in this position,” Mikel said.
“It’s been a difficult start to the Giro. In these early stages there’s always a lot of stress. No one wants to lose any time, so it’s been a big battle just as we expected. We also had two time trials during the first nine stages, and it’s no secret these are not the best stages for me.
“Right now I’m in a better position than I expected and I have to be happy, because now the best part of the Giro begins for me. I’m really optimistic for the next group of stages.”
After weathering a few days where he admitted to not feeling 100 percent, Landa was able to rebound with what he believes to be one of the best performances of his career in Sunday’s 40.5km time trial.
“For sure it’s one of my best rides,” he added. “I’ve never done a time trial like that before. I was really motivated, along with the new bike I had and support from the whole team. We did a lot of work over the winter and now we were able to get this result.
“I remember we had one really hard day working on my TT position in Mallorca. We were at the track for around six or seven hours on my birthday. Normally that’s a day where you want to take some time for yourself, but instead there was a lot of hard work. But it’s nice that many months later there was a present from this!”
Instead of blowing apart the general classification as many predicted, the time trial around Chianti only served to keep the leaderboard tight, heading into the second full week and some key mountain stages.
“I thought that after the time trial there might be some bigger time differences between the favourites. But if you look at the GC, we’re all really close together. It’s going to be a beautiful race. The top 10 is really strong and it’s going to be a great fight!
“With the climbs coming up in the second week it’s time now to try to make a difference. This is the best terrain for me. If the feelings are good like I had in the time trial, then we will hope to take some time.”
After riding to a hard-fought third place in the 2015 edition of the Giro, Landa acknowledges that the lessons learned 12 months ago are now a huge asset as he looks to stand on the podium again.
“Last year’s experience has helped me a lot,” he confirmed. “In the last few days I’ve not always felt very good – so being calm and being able to take it easy has been really important. That’s helped me arrive at this point with only around a 20 to 40-second gap to the best riders.
“The support I’ve had from the whole team has been really nice. They’ve always been there, helping me a lot both on the road and also off the road. Helping me to recover, to be happy and to stay calm. I think everyone is doing great work and I’m very grateful and happy to be a part of it.”