MILAN (VN) — Mikel Landa, third overall in the 2015 Giro d’Italia, hasn’t begun his 2016 race season with Team Sky. Out of the favorites for the Giro, which starts in two months, he is the only one yet to race.
Organizer RCS Sport expected the Spanish star to line up in Strade Bianche this Saturday and in the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race next week.
“It was a seasonal cold that needed more time then what we had imagined for him to deal with,” Sky sport director Dario Cioni told VeloNews. “It’s better that he [recovers fully]; Tirreno-Adriatico would not serve him well. It’s a demanding race, difficult. It’s not just four days of racing, it’s a week of hard stages. So it’s a management decision to leave him with more time to start the races ready.”
Landa led the 2015 Giro last May and looked ready to win before teammate and Astana captain Fabio Aru miraculously found his legs. Astana ordered Landa to ease off the throttle in several stages including the one over Mortirolo and paved the way for Aru to place second overall behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). Landa won two stages and placed third overall.
Sky signed the 26-year-old Basque over the off-season to lead its Giro d’Italia team. The British super-team says that it wants to send an A-team and go full-gas for its first overall win in the Italian grand tour. However, Landa’s delay raises some questions.
Back to training! Still no date for my debut but with the same goal in mind…Giro
— Mikel Landa (@MikelLandaMeana) February 29, 2016
He was due to debut in Sky’s black and blue at the Volta a Valenciana on February 3, but he and the team pushed it back to the Ruta del Sol on February 17. At first, he said the delay was due to additional practice needed on his time trial bike. Then, he fell sick before he began the Ruta del Sol (Vuelta a Andalucía). The new setback will leave Landa with few race days in his legs before the Giro d’Italia kicks off in Apeldoorn on May 6.
He is currently training in the south of Spain while his rivals — Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tom Dumoulin (Giant –Alpecin), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale), Esteban Chaves (Orica – GreenEdge) and Ryder Hesjedal (Trek – Segafredo) — already began their 2016 season.
“He’s improved a lot compared to just recently, but he’s just now began aerobic training,” added Cioni. “If all goes to plan, he should definitely race before the end of the month. We are still unsure if it’s going to be the Volta a Catalunya or Coppi & Bartali, it’s going to depend how he handles his workload and how he feels.”
Landa’s schedule should continue with the País Vasco stage race from April 4-9 and the Giro del Trentino, April 19-22.