Mikel Landa excited to chase the win at the 'Itzulia', which starts in Zarautz on Monday with a field full of top-level competitors.
Four days before the start of the 2018 Vuelta al País Vasco, the region’s biggest reference for the race, Mikel Landa, continues to finetune his form at the Costa Blanca in Alicante, looking forward to do well in his first big goal of the season. Following his maiden win in Movistar Team colours at Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this month, the Basque climber feels confident about his current form and focused on performing well into a race full of top-level contenders and bound to be decided by very few seconds.
COBBLESTONES (Rode the E3 Harelbeke last week)
“It was an experience very different from what we’re used to: a very distinct kind of race, with different rivals, another way to tackle the race itself – the most important thing for me from that day was to learn how to ride on cobblestones, to get a taste of it in a real race. We achieved that goal and I’m satisfied with this test. I’ve left any fears I could have behind. I crashed at the big pile-up halfway through the race, which really conditioned the day’s outcome, but I didn’t really get hurt. We’ll be back in northern Europe after the Itzulia to ride over the sections we’ll have to tackle at the Tour de France.”
FITNESS LEVEL / PREPARATIONS
“I’ve chosen to train in Benidorm before the Vuelta al País Vasco. I wanted to make sure I could enjoy some good weather, and also be in a different atmosphere, more focused and relaxed, before what should be the first big goal in my season. I’ve already stated in previous interviews that I wanted to do well and be strong at both Tirreno and the Itzulia, and I think I’m going there in really good form. I felt well in Italy and I’ve recovered well and built a good base on those efforts. Claiming a win also made me a bit more calm and confident. I knew I had done things right in the winter, yet a victory always reasserts it and gives you a real confirmation of that job done well.”
“Other than the Bermeo stage on day two, I’ve raced or ridden on most of the route, and I’m really aware that we’ll have to stay focused at every single stage.”
Stage 1 – “We start out from Zarautz with what will surely be a really nervous stage. Everyone’s got fresh legs and many will try to get to the bottom of the final climb first. It will be crucial to keep a good position and also save some bit of energy to remain in the front group at that last ascent. It’s a tough one – should it be longer, we could have seen a big selection, but it’s demanding enough for an opening stage.”
Stage 2 – “It will be similar to the day before, another nervous finish. I don’t know that specific climb, but I trust our sports directors when they say it will be as hard as the day prior’s. It will be basically the same scheme of things in the finale: all-out to the foot of the climb and through the ascent to not lose any seconds.”
Stage 3 – “It finishes in my home province, Álava, and it should be the easiest in this year’s Itzulia. I don’t know if we will have any sprinters taking the start on Monday, but should they come here, they’ll stand a strong chance here. It’s the least hard route in the whole week.”
Stage 4 – “It’s not the typical route for a TT in País Vasco at all. It’s 19km long, but it’s completely flat. The wind might play a big factor here, because there’s plenty of direction changes in the route and we’ll have it blowing from all sides.”
Stage 5 – “It’s a mountain stage after the TT, and there could be two important things here: how are things standing on the GC and how much energy have riders spent on Thursday. The mountains are further away from the finish line so, if anyone is willing to give it a try, the effects of such an attack could be more dangerous.”
Stage 6 – “Arrate is a legendary climb, and everyone will want to win there. The Itzulia will be decided on this mountain and it will be all-out for us as well as for everyone, because there’s no tomorrow after that.”
BONUS SECONDS / TT
“The bonus seconds will play a big role in the race result. There are many stages that might finish with a small group at the front in the end and, if you’re able to win some seconds there, the race situation could play in your favour.
“The time trial will also be key for the GC. After the tests we went through at the Tafalla velodrome after Tirreno-Adriatico, we’ve made some adjustments whose results might be visible in Lodosa come next Thursday. The main thing there was exploring our conditions to find a better position on the TT bike and go faster. We’ll see how we’re doing at that time trial, and we’ll have to continue working after that.”
BIB #1 / RIVALS
“It makes me really happy to take the start with a #1 on my back. It’s my home stagerace and it’s even better to ride on home roads with that number. I’m so happy to have been given the chance. It’s also a race that brings me many good memories, so I hope to do well again this year. The GC fight will be really tight, it should come down to few seconds on the final stage. Guys like Kwiatkowski or Roglic could open a significant gap in the TT, plus there will be strong allrounders like the Izagirre brothers, Alaphilippe, Porte, Nibali, Urán… There are many names who could win this one. A message to the team’s fans? Let them know they can trust me, I’ll give it my all to try and win this Vuelta al País Vasco, and even it’ll be tough with such many contenders, we’ll go for it until the very last stage.”