Illness has caused the British team to look again at plans for the first Grand Tour of the season
Team Sky‘s year to dominate the Giro d’Italia for the first time after doing so in the Tour de France may come this year, May 6 to 29, but team boss Sir Dave Brailsford says that he needs to wait to see how new star Mikel Landa recovers from a winter’s cold.
The Spaniard, third in the 2015 Giro behind winner Alberto Contador, fell sick and delayed his season start twice. He is now due to begin racing in Italy’s Coppi & Bartali stage race on March 24.
Brailsford is following Sky’s team with Wout Poels and Michal Kwiatkowski this week in Italy’s Tirreno-Adriatico. This morning, with the wind blowing hard in Lazio north of Rome, he turned his attention to the Giro.
“We have to develop slowly,” Brailsford told Cycling Weekly of Landa. “When you are like that, you have to come back at a certain pace. The worst-case scenario is that you try to rush it. You have to recover at the right rate, if you push it too hard after an illness, you are back to square one and it takes twice as long.”
Landa was set to start in Sky’s black colours in the Volta a Valenciana on February 3, but they delayed it to the Ruta del Sol on February 17. He caught a seasonal cold said Sports Director Dario Cioni before the Ruta del Sol and had to re-tool his plans. Now, the idea after Coppi & Bartali, is for Landa to race País Vasco and the Giro del Trentino.
There is reason to believe in Landa. Last year racing with team Astana, he began his season relatively late in the Volta a Catalunya on March 23. He then went on to the Giro and appeared ready to win when Astana captain Fabio Aru fell sick. Aru recovered and Landa had to let off the throttle, but he still went home to the Basque Country with two stage wins and a third overall. He also caught the attention of Sky.
Team Sky have been trying to bag their first win in the Italian grand tour for a few years after already dominating the Tour with Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Wiggins tried, Richie Porte tried twice, and now Landa will have his turn.
“When we sat down in November, looking at the team, on paper it seemed we had a very good talented team to go to the Giro. Then life gets in the way and people get sick, you just have to adjust and readjust,” Brailsford explained.
“There are very few teams that have two riders who can win Grand Tours. If you can win one, and that’s it, the you look to the Tour. I thought Richie was in good shape last year for the Giro, but it didn’t quite work out. I’d have thought that Mikel would’ve been a good contender this year coming into it with a good run. It still is [a priority] and it will be this year.”
Climbing domestique Beñat Intxausti is in doubt for the Giro with mononucleosis. However, Sky are still pushing ahead with all of their men towards May. Ian Boswell trained with Froome at altitude in South Africa to be ready. Leopold König should be in form, too.
“We have a group of riders who will be the supporting riders and we have many good guys to choose from for that and the Tour,” Brailsford said. “Of course, we are motivated towards it, without a doubt. We are going to develop nice and steady, and we’ll see.”