Mikel Landa: “I’m in a position where I can’t settle”

22 July 2019
Mikel Landa: “I’m in a position where I can’t settle”

2019 Tour de France (second rest day)

Basque climber from Movistar Team -currently 7th overall-, Alejandro Valverde (8th), Nairo Quintana speak to the media in Nîmes before getting started with TDF’s final week on Tuesday.

Mikel Landa:

“Last Monday’s was a hard blow, yet we had to continue trying. The Pyrenees left us a sweet taste, and lifted our morale before the upcoming week. I feel like there’s so much still to happen in the Alps. Yesterday we saw Alaphilippe showing weakness for the first time in this Tour. Pinot is really strong, Thomas doesn’t seem as strong as earlier in the race – I feel like the Tour isn’t decided yet. So far, though, Pinot has seemed like the strongest. He lost of a lot of time in the crosswinds, and he needs to attack. That’s good for me, as well as for the fans.

“The day when I crashed, it was hard to admit for me I had to again attack from afar in the mountains, and having everyone wanting me to launch those attacks. I didn’t want to, I just wanted to tackle the biggest mountains with the same chances as the rest, as I thought I had deserved. Yesterday, however, I got back to feeling comfortable in such a situation. I felt the support of the team, they helped me a lot, and so I’ve gained confidence – and happiness.

“A podium finish or a stage win? Maybe in this case, in this Tour de France, I’d rather have that place on the podium. I’ve tried to be there for years. The first time I got onto the podium of a Grand Tour – well’, it wasn’t a lucky one, but I wasn’t really aspiring to it. Ever since that day, I’ve always tried to get back, especially here in the Tour, and I’d like to make it happen this time.

“I think they’ll keep me more under control this week. Actually, when I was ahead yesterday there were some teams which already worked hard behind to chase me down. This is the Tour de France, everyone defends every single position. It’s not going to be my case, and I hope this year’s Tour is different when it comes to that style of racing. There will be other riders looking to improve their result in the final week. I’m in a position where I can’t settle with what I have right now. I’ve to try things like Sunday’s to get all that time back -I’m even far from sixth place, just one step ahead of seventh- in the three Alpine stages remaining.”

Alejandro Valverde:

We did everything as we had planned on Saturday’s stage, but we were obviously left with that taste of slight disappointment, unease, because we didn’t get the result we wanted, Nairo not feeling well and us not knowing he didn’t feel like that. What was our mistake? The only mistake is that he didn’t tell us. You’d have to ask him why he didn’t tell us. What would we be doing pushing like that if we knew he wasn’t alirhgt? As soon as we saw him dropping back, we immediately stopped. Sometimes you don’t race at the back of the group because you’re cooked, rather than staying better covered against the wind and race more comfortably.

“We don’t like to surrender. We wanted to keep on fighting. We tried again yesterday, and we ended up having a really good day. Mikel gained some more time back, I was up there with the top contenders – it really makes us confident before the three big stages coming up in the Alps.

“A realistic result at the end of this week? Even being realistic, I think we can aim for everything. The Alps routes are really tough, Mikel is a fighter, he usually recovers well at the end of a three-week stagerace. It’s true that he comes from the Giro, but it’s also true that he didn’t really race much before the Giro, and I feel he’s going to finish in really strong condition. The team? Well, everyone has already seen what we can do. Everyone is really strong. We must continue to race like this if we want to win this Tour. Difficult? Extremely, of course it is. However, if you don’t aim for it, you will never know. In the Alps, we could gain many minutes on our rivals, just like we could lose them.

“Things can still change a lot in this Tour. Pinot seems to be a bit superior to the others, but the rest – Bernal doesn’t seem to have a real edge on Mikel, and the others gain time at one day and then lose it at the next one. Ineos is not the dominating team they used to be, and that might be the biggest surprise to date in this Tour. We’re confident Mikel can continue to do well, just like the rest of the team. Plus, I’m so happy with how the team is doing: going on the attack as soon as we entered the big mountains, always on the attack. There will be fans happy with what we’ve done and others who aren’t, but we didn’t stop trying.

“Surprised about my performance in the altitude of the Tourmalet? Yes, maybe a bit, but the thing I’m most surprised about is being 39 and still able to ride with the GC guys. We have a clear goal in mind for the remainder of the Tour, though. There’s only one team leader right now, Mikel Landa, and the rest is going to support him all the way. We really hope Nairo plays a factor, so we can further support Mikel in crucial moments. Nairo is Nairo, we know who he is, what he’s won as a pro, he’s a strong rider, and everyone he knows could be used for the team’s overall success. I hope it was just a lack of energy when he wasn’t able to do more for Mikel when he was overtaken by him in Prat d’Albis.

Nairo Quintana:

Sadly, everything has changed for the worse in this past week. The crash on Wednesday really hampered my chances. We thought it wasn’t going to be important after my decent TT, we thought I’d be in good condition for the mountains, but it wasn’t like that. Still, yesterday we wanted to give it another try, seek to plan a good strategy with the team and help Mikel out – he’s clearly doing better than me.

“I got into the break yesterday to make the race harder and faster, see which GC riders were cracking, if we could catch someone off balance. The pace was high in the breakaway, also behind, and Alaphilippe started to show some weakness. Others have also lost their chances, such as Enric Mas. We didn’t gain as much as we deserved with the effort we made, but we’re showing our rivals’ true colours, Mikel is doing great, and we’re going to keep pushing.

“I didn’t have much energy left in the end yesterday. I wanted to give Mikel a hand, but he was so strong and continued to climb up to the front. I knew he was close, but he just suddenly showed up, AG2R was picking up the pace, I couldnt’ push any further and just went on my own pace. I hope we can recover in these few days and, as the team says, help each other out and seek for the goal we have, which is a podium finish with Mikel. The GC rider are pretty close together in the standings, and we don’t know what can happen. We’ll see what we can do for Mikel in this week.

“I’ve got no individual goals at this moment. We will plan with the team what we can do.”