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"The team is good, maybe not to fight for the victory with teams like BMC and Evans, with Katusha and Rodriguez, Omega and Uran or Movistar and Quintana, but we should be in contention for the podium with Scarponi," Landa says

Photo: Sirotti








25.04.2014 @ 20:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Mikel Landa crowned a fabulous and dominant Astana performance in today's queen stage of the Giro del Trentino when he took a beautiful solo win, his first in his new colours. With Michele Scarponi and Fabio Aru also in the top 10 of the stage and all three riders in the final overall top 10, the team is fully ready for the Giro d'Italia where Landa will put himself at the service of Scarponi who targets a spot on the podium.


In 2011 Mikel Landa stormed onto the professional scene when he beat some of the best climbers in the world to win the Vuelta a Burgos queen stage to the top of the infamous Lagunas de Neila climb. Today the talented Basque proved that while being a rare winner, he knows how to win on the biggest scene as he took a beautiful solo win in the queen stage of the Giro del Trentino to the top of the legendary Monte Bondone climb.


Over the last few days Astana had proved that they had the strongest team in the Italian race, with Landa joining forces with Michele Scarponi and Fabio Aru to form a fabulous three-pronged attack. Until today, however, the trio had always come up short against the likes of Cadel Evans (BMC) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r).


Today the team had entered the stage with the ambition to win the stage with Aru and defend the youngster's white jersey as best young rider and the Kazakhs took things into their own hands when they hit the Monte Bondone. With Paolo Tiralongo doing a massive amount of work to set up his leaders, the team controlled the proceedings and made it virtually impossible to attack.


For a brief moment, the team seemed to be on their back foot when overall leader Evans, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r), Louis Meintjes and Fabio Duarte (Colombia) escaped but they kept their calm and brought the strong group back. They responded quickly when Franco Pellizotti (Androni) took off and quickly reeled the former Italian champion in.


When Meintjes attacked and opened a gap, the team changed tactics. Instead of leading the chase, they sent Landa up the road, with the Basque joining forces with Pellizotti.


With Astana no longer setting the pace, the tempo in the group of favourites dropped and it soon became apparent that the stage winner would be one of the three leading riders. Meintjes did a good job to hold off his chasers but when Landa dropped Pellizotti and put down the hammer, his time as race leader was destined to come to an end.


Landa caught Meintjes with 2km to go and took a few moments to recover on the wheel of the South African champion before he launched his decisive move inside the final 1.5km. The MTN rider was unable to respond and from there the outcome was never in doubt.


The win comes as confirmation for Landa after a great start to the season that also saw him ride very well at his home race, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and shows that he is ready for the big target, the Giro d'Italia, where he will again join forces with Scarponi and Aru. In that race, however, he will put himself at the service of Scarponi.


“Six or seven ks to the finish I knew I had to try," he said. "I felt good and when you feel good you have to try and do something.


“Our first goal was to try and win the stage with Scarponi but he was too close in GC, so then we thought to try with Aru. But he was too close also so in the end it was my chance and I took it."


"I'm very happy," he added to Biciciclismo. "The win is what I was looking for earlier this year.


"First we set the pace on the climb. We have really animated the race. I amde the first attack and then Scarponi saw that I had good legs and was going well. He rold me that I should try. I attacked and able to catch Pellizotti and Meintjes. The GC was almost decided and that was in my favour too.


"It is three years since that victory [on the Lagunas de Neila climb]. Winning is what every rider wants, so I'm satisfied.


"Personally, it's a little confirmation that I am going well for the Giro. Scarponi will get also better, as will Aru. The team is good, maybe not to fight for the victory with teams like BMC and Evans, with Katusha and Rodriguez, Omega and Uran or Movistar and Quintana, but we should be in contention for the podium with Scarponi. And we will try to take every possible opportunity to win a stage. We are a group of climbers and for sure we will be competitive in the mountains.


"I dedicate the win to all the people who believed in me all these years. When I won in Burgos, many expectations were created and many expected more wins. It's a victory for those who have been there thorughout all those years.


"Now I will rest for a couple of days and then I will focus on the work for the Giro d'Italia."


"I arrived here straight from a 16-day hard training block on Mount Teide, but in the end I feel good sensations which are important for the Giro," Aru told Tuttobiciweb. "Now I just have to think about improving my good condition like Scarponi. I try to take one step at a time, without setting myself too many goals, although in my heart I'm always one who tries to do the maximum."



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