Welcome to Movistar, Mikel Linda, take your seat, right behind captain Quintana. Keep in mind, you are not number one, you’re number two — unless Alejandro Valverde wants to get upset. He just might so keep an eye out.
Quintana didn’t bother to wait for the first training camp to make sure that Landa knew exactly where he fit in. “I am the leader of the team and I am the leader for the Tour [de France],” Quintana told Spanish newspaper El País. Landa is number two, sits on the second row of the team bus and is second in line for the dinner pasta. The spotlight is Nairo and nobody else.
Which was a clever way of saying “Hi Mikel, enjoy the Giro d’Italia. Because I’m the boss man at Movistar and if you’re showing up for Le Tour, then be prepared to do exactly the same thing you did for Chris Froome at Sky. You’re working for me now.”
Landa played domestique deluxe for Froome and finished one second off the podium. He wasn’t happy to be held back but he knew the drill and played the loyal and highly paid, if disgruntled, soldier. On the second Tour rest day, he said “This cannot happen to me again.”
Well, as far as France goes, yes, it can and will. Landa may have switched from the black Sky kit to the dark blue and bright green of Movistar, but the change of outfit won’t change the outcome. If he rides Le Grand Shindig, he will be towing Quintana up the Alps and Pyrenees.
“Being the leader of the team as I am, Landa is well received,” said Quintana. “For us it’s a great help for races that I myself might have had to do for the sake of the team and the sponsor. Previously it was me who had to be there, but now there will be one more person covering these types of races, and then I will be at the most important ones that we believe will lead me into the Tour in good shape.”
Yes, a nice reception for Landa as long as he understands the job and gets on with it, like Wout Poels and Geraint Thomas and Mikel Nieve did at Sky. Check your power meter, set a hard tempo, empty the tank for the boss man.
Perhaps that doesn’t matter to Landa at this particular juncture. It’s a two year contract and he’ll happily take his lead role in the Giro d’Italia and then be the back-up singer for Quintana. The ageless Valverde will lead the team in the Vuelta a Espana and everybody is happy in Movistarland. Then in 2019, Landa can reassess his options — especially if he Quintana gets crushed again by Froome.
Let’s just hope Landa stays healthy and in good shape for his Giro attempt — he’d won two stages and took third in the 2015 edition — but last season crashed on stage 9 and ruined his shot at the podium. If that happens again and he rides the Tour, well, he knows exactly what role he’ll play.
It will be deja vu all over again.