Sky's the limit for leader Landa at the Giro

Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:55pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Tipped as the next Spanish cycling great when Alberto Contador hangs up his racing bike, Mikel Landa is less than a month away from being given the stage to justify his billing.

When the Giro d'Italia begins in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, on May 6 and Landa rolls off the start ramp he will do so as team leader at a Grand Tour for the first time.

It will break new ground for the 26-year-old Basque who was third last year despite riding as a domestique for Astana's team leader Fabio Aru, who he also supported to victory in the Vuelta.

Offered the carrot of having a team built around him for the Giro by Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford, Landa jumped at the chance to become a team mate of double Tour de France champion Chris Froome.

"It was a very easy decision," Landa, slowly getting up to speed after a virus delayed his competitive race debut for his new employer, told Reuters at a recent training camp.

"Sky said they were years ago looking for me and they offered me the project to be the leader of the team.

"After last year I knew I could win a Grand Tour so now I have the opportunity and everything is focused on the Giro."

Question marks remain about Landa's time-trialling ability, and his fitness after a delayed start to the season, but he has already proven a match for anyone in the mountains.   Continued...

Astana rider Mikel Landa Meana of Spain celebrates as he crosses the finish line in the 174 km (108 miles) 16th stage of the 98th Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) cycling race from Pinzolo to Aprica, Italy, May 26, 2015. REUTERS/LaPresse/Fabio Ferrari