Landa gets Stelvio treatment from Quintana

Things looking up at Movistar?

When little Nairo Quintana burst on the grand tour scene, it was easy to assume he was an easy going guy, just happy to be making good money he could send back to Colombia.

Then the 2014 Giro d’Italia happened, with Quintana setting up his victory with a controversial descent of the Stelvio, in dangerous winter conditions, that was either neutralized or not neutralized or kinda, sorta neutralized.

On a day with horrific weather, Quintana saw the Giro was there for the taking and he snatched it, boldly, brazenly and without hesitation. He showed he was as much a stone cold killer as Froome or Nibali.

When some teams suggested he be docked some of that “stolen” time on the Stelvio, Quintana was quick with a dismissive response. “Really, I don’t know if what they are saying is a joke,” he said. “It makes me laugh, because in reality everyone present and everyone who watches on TV knows what really happened. It’s not like I went down the Stelvio in a car or on a motorbike. I came down on a bike on the same roads everyone else came down and then I climbed well afterwards.”

It was a “no gifts” answer, a Bernard Hinault punch to the face.

We were thinking of that Stelvio day when we read Quintana’s frosty “I’m the Tour Captain” welcome to new teammate Mikel Landa. Quintana put him in his place — the handy domestic role that Landa has already played with Chris Froome and Fabio Aru.

It was as if he was channeling his Stelvio response — What, are you joking? I’m the boss and Landa works for me.

Not surprisingly, Landa didn’t appreciate the lack of warmth, the presumptive attitude or the slap down. “Well… Evidently, I would have liked another kind of welcome, but as it seems I’m going to his house and it looks like he doesn’t like it,” said Landa.

That’s right, Mikel, welcome to Quintana-ville. You want to ride the Tour de France, then get ready to pull Nairo like you pulled Mr. Froome and check your ambitions when you show up for stage one at Noirmoutier-En-L’Ile.

Which does raise the obvious question? Was Landa’s asking price too high for Trek-Segafredo, a WorldTour team desperate for a top grand tour star after the retirement of Alberto Contador? What happened there?

Landa would have been the top Tour dog on the Trek squad with Bauke Mollema the clear number riding shotgun. He would have received a far more enthusiastic welcome and could have called all his own shots. Did Landa get too greedy? Trek-Segafredo would have been his “house.”

Now Landa finds himself on the back foot and staring deja vu in the face. Because when it comes to leadership at Movistar, Nairo Quintana isn’t joking around. That was for the losers on the Stelvio.

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