Category: Mikel Landa

Landa aims for Giro-Tour double in 2019


FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Mikel Landa plans to race both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2019 if his Movistar team will allow him the grand tour double target.

The Spanish cyclist from the Basque Country last raced the Giro and Tour in 2017 when he was still a member of Team Sky. After a crash, he still managed to win a stage and the mountain jersey in the Italian tour and returned one month later to place fourth overall while helping Chris Froome win the Tour overall.

The 2019 Giro and Tour plan hinges on a team meeting next month with manager Eusebio Unzué.

“I want to do the Giro and the Tour,” Landa told Spanish daily AS. “I’ll talk to Eusebio and then we’ll see what happens.”

He signed for Movistar ahead of the 2018 season. He was one of three leaders the Spanish super team took to the Tour with Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana. The team, however, fell short of its goal. Quintana won a mountain stage and Landa led the team home in seventh overall.

Media has hyped Landa since his breakthrough Giro d’Italia ride in 2015. He won two summit finish stages and placed third overall while helping then-Astana team leader Fabio Aru. Aru placed second behind a dominant Alberto Contador.

Landa has yet to win a grand tour. Returning to the Giro as Movistar’s leader could offer him his chance.

The 2019 Giro route includes 58.5 kilometers of time trials, but also five high-mountain summit finishes. Landa would then need to back off in the five weeks between the Giro and the Tour. He is expected to join Quintana for the Tour.

“Will it affect me in the Tour? I do not think so,” he said. “There have been many mountains in the last week in Italy in recent years, and people go on to do well in the Tour.”

Top stars Froome and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) both raced the double in 2018. Froome won the Giro d’Italia and placed third in the Tour as he helped teammate Geraint Thomas win. Dutchman Dumoulin placed second in both grand tours.

Quintana tried the double in 2017 and regretted it later in the summer. He lost the pink jersey on the Giro’s final day to Tom Dumoulin and placed second overall. In the Tour, he could not reach his best that allowed him to place second overall in 2013 and 2015. He closed 12th overall.

Movistar should decide on its riders’ 2019 programs soon. The team’s riders and staff meet next month in Pamplona, Spain.

Landa could use a knockout performance in one of the grand tours to secure a top-dollar renewal with Team Movistar or a new contract for 2020. His current deal ends next year.

“What I achieve in the races will affect my future,” he said. “I hope to give headaches to those who have to renew me or those who want to sign me.”

Read the full article at Landa aims for Giro-Tour double in 2019 on VeloNews.com.

Movistar to bring Landa, Quintana back to 2019 Tour


Movistar is bullish Mikel Landa will perform at maximum capacity in 2019 following a rough and tumble debut with the Spanish blues.

Landa expressed optimism he would be back at his best next season following a string of crashes that kept him from shining at his best during 2018.

“If this year didn’t work out, next year it will,” Landa said. “It was a complicated season, with the crash at the Tour, I was never at my best and after crashing at San Sebastián, it really cost me a lot to try to get back for the Vuelta and the worlds.”

The Basque star was hampered at the Tour following a heavy fall on the pavé. He crashed again just as he was hitting top form at Clásica de San Sebastián.

“It really wore me out and I needed to take a long break to recover physically and mentally,” he said. “I’ve learned you need to be patient in these complicated situations, and next year I hope to avoid troubles so I can do what I know I can.”

Landa joined Movistar this year with big expectations of top results on the bike and intrigue off the bike with teammate Nairo Quintana. The pair ended up riding professionally and even became friends. In races, both Landa and Quintana suffered. Quintana delivered a Tour stage win but could not follow the best in GC. Landa rode into the top 10 despite injuries to his back in a spill on the cobbles.

“Mikel was never himself during the Tour and when he finally started to feel better, the race was over,” said Movistar boss Eusebio Unzue. “Class doesn’t disappear in a day, and I’m sure Mikel will be better than ever when he’s healthy in 2019.”

Unzue said he will bring both Landa and Quintana back to the Tour, but said racing calendars are still not finalized.

“With both Mikel and Nairo we can aspire for the maximum. As we’ve seen, bad luck and crashes can dash even the best-laid plans,” he said. “Everyone knows Mikel is capable of doing special things. We expect to see that even more next season.”

Landa, who resisted offers from other teams and will fulfill the second year of his two-year deal with Movistar, said his priority will be the Tour.

“I want and have to go to the Tour,” he said. “We’ll see about the Giro or Vuelta.”

Read the full article at Movistar to bring Landa, Quintana back to 2019 Tour on VeloNews.com.

Reports suggest no Vuelta for Landa

Reports via Spanish media outlets suggest Movistar rider Mikel Landa will not race the Vuelta a España as initially hoped.

There was no official confirmation from Movistar or Landa on Sunday, but it appears Landa is still suffering from a heavy crash at the Clásica San Sebastián earlier this month.

Spanish outlets Ciclismo a Fondo and El Periódico cited sources that said Landa’s recovery hasn’t gone as well as hoped. Less than a week after finishing in the top-10 at the Tour de France, Landa fractured two ribs as well as a vertebra in a pileup late in the Spanish one-day WorldTour race. American rider Ben King later apologized for provoking the crash.

Movistar officials were hoping Landa would be able to recover in time to take the Vuelta start. The team initially planned to bring all three of its leaders to the race, with Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde expected to line up next to Landa. “Ciclismo a Fondo” reported that Richard Carapaz, fourth overall at the Giro d’Italia, will take his place.

Landa still might try to race this season, but there won’t be a Vuelta in the cards. The team could confirm the news as soon as Monday, reports said.

The Vuelta starts Saturday in Málaga in southern Spain.

Read the full article at Reports suggest no Vuelta for Landa on VeloNews.com.

Mikel Landa not ruled out of Vuelta despite fractured vertebra

Mikel Landa has been released from a hospital Sunday following a crash at the Clasica San Sebastian, his Movistar team said. Despite a fractured vertebra, his team says he may still race the Vuelta a España.

The Spaniard was aiming to race his home tour, which runs August 25 through September 16.

Landa was one of several riders caught up in the pile-up less than 20km from the finish, which saw Team Sky’s young Colombian hopeful Egan Bernal suffer injuries to his face.

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) went on to win San Sebastian, out-sprinting Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing).

Landa was diagnosed with “non-displaced fracture of the spinous process in his lumbar vertebra L1,” his Movistar team confirmed.

He was concious and in stable condition throughout the aftermath of the crash. Medical staff immobilized him with a neck brace. He was taken to Donostia Hospital for examinations.

Movistar’s press statement said that he will require two to three weeks of rest to heal.

Despite that long layoff, he has not been ruled out of starting the Vuelta, his team confirmed on Sunday.

The 28-year-old Basque had targeted victory in the Vuelta after failing to podium at the Tour de France, where he finished seventh overall behind Welsh winner Geraint Thomas.

His teammates Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde — both former winners of the Vuelta — are also expected to target the three-week Spanish grand tour.

Read the full article at Mikel Landa not ruled out of Vuelta despite fractured vertebra on VeloNews.com.

Movistar will bring three-pronged Tour attack to Vuelta

What didn’t work in the Tour de France will be Movistar’s plan of attack at the Vuelta a España.

The Spanish team fell short of its Tour ambitions, but it will stick with the same game plan. Movistar will bring its unconventional three-pronged attack that fell short at the Tour and will hope it sticks at the Vuelta.

Team boss Eusebio Unzué confirmed to VeloNews at the finish line of Saturday’s stage 20 time trial he will take all three of his leaders — Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Alejandro Valverde — to the Spanish grand tour that starts August 25 in Malaga.

Movistar’s so-called “tricefalia” will ride again.

“If nothing happens between now and then,” Unzué said, “all three will race the Vuelta.”

Movistar fell well short of its ambitions for the Tour. The team won a stage in the Alps with Quintana and claimed its fourth team prize in five years, but it was never a serious threat for the yellow jersey in Paris.

“We came here looking for more than we have been able to achieve,” Unzué said. “It was a brilliant stage victory for the team with Nairo, but in the general classification, we had hoped to be able to be on the podium, but that was not to be.”

Some early crashes and losses proved costly to the team’s larger goals of trying to dethrone Team Sky.

Quintana recovered from a stage 1 setback when he broke two wheels to win his first Tour stage since 2018. The Colombian suffered from heat and a late-race crash to finish 10th overall, his second-worst Tour result since his dramatic runner-up debut in 2013.

Valverde fell short of his goal of winning a stage despite a daring long-range attack that put him momentarily into the “virtual” yellow jersey in the Alps. The veteran, who is targeting the worlds in Innsbruck, will use the Vuelta to hone his form.

Landa suffered from a heavy crash in stage 9 but fought back to a team-best seventh after finishing fourth last year with Team Sky. Both he and Quintana will target the overall at the Vuelta.

Two riders in the top 10, a stage win, and the team prize would be satisfying for most teams. Movistar left the Tour wanting more, however, and vowed to take on the Vuelta even more aggressively.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzué:

VN: How is the balance of the Tour for Movistar?
EU: We came here looking for more than we have been able to achieve. It was a brilliant stage victory for the team with Nairo, but in the general classification, we had hoped to be able to be on the podium, but that was not to be. And I don’t want to explain it all away or attribute all of that to bad luck — which we’ve definitely had with the crashes for Mikel and Nairo. But we’ll move forward thinking about the things we have managed to achieve.

VN: How did the three-leader plan work out for the team?
EU: Starting with three leaders, they’re three guys who can contest the general classification; it’s not a problem of three leaders. If any of them had emerged at the top we would have supported him. It’s not a problem of three leaders. It’s just that our three guys, who were on a good level, were still far from the level of the best riders in the race.

VN: Sky came with two leaders, so sometimes it works …
EU: Sky could have had three leaders too, had it not been for Bernal’s crash. It’s not a problem of three leaders. They’re quality riders. They haven’t been able to achieve everything they’re capable of. Like I said, I’m not going to blame bad luck for not being where we should have been. Sometimes that’s just sport. Today we were a bit off in this time trial and maybe we’re paying for doing a lot of work in many key days, which is probably why Mikel and Nairo were both a bit far off from the times we think they could have had in normal times.

VN: How do you beat Sky?
EU: Sky’s a great team and this year, again, they have the strongest rider. [Geraint Thomas] is a guy and a rider that has never had much luck in the grand tours but nevertheless has been the most brilliant and most consistent rider. He’s taken two stage wins so you can’t take absolutely anything away from him. He’s been the dominant rider with a team to protect him.

VN: Movistar has a strong team, too, but couldn’t reach the podium, why?
EU: The squad doesn’t make a rider stronger. A rider has his level. Yes, the team is important, if you’re indeed the best. The team isn’t going to make you stronger — your level is what it is.

VN: Is Sky’s financial cloud a big advantage?
EU: To have the chance to spend what you want and then achieve your goals, you just have to congratulate them. It’s more than just great riders. It’s the science and their system and they way they prepare. Each year it’s easier for them to achieve something at the Tour and harder for the rest of us.

Read the full article at Movistar will bring three-pronged Tour attack to Vuelta on VeloNews.com.

Tour de France: Landa’s last gasp comes up short in stage 19

Mikel Landa delivered on his pre-race promise to attack from afar in Friday’s stage 19 at the Tour de France. Things didn’t go the way he’d hoped they would, but the Spaniard had no regrets about making one last attempt at a high-mountain raid in what has been a frustrating Tour for his Movistar squad.

“When we started on the Tourmalet we knew it would be really hard. For a moment, I started to believe it was possible to win the stage and maybe even end up on the GC podium,” he said. “Then I realized it wasn’t. But we had to fight.”

The final mountain stage of the Tour was one last chance for Landa to join teammate Nairo Quintana as a stage winner in this year’s race, which has not gone according to plan for Movistar. Each of the team’s three co-leaders — Quintana, Landa, and Alejandro Valverde — lost time early on and never really challenged for the yellow jersey. Quintana at least salvaged something from the race with an impressive stage 17 victory. The Colombian took a hard fall in stage 18, however, leaving it up to Landa to try his luck on the road to Laruns.

He said on Thursday that Movistar needed to go long, and that’s exactly what he did the following day.

Landa jumped into a move on the slopes of the Col du Tourmalet with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), and they were soon joined by other strong climbers like Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) in pursuit of the early breakaway. After going up and over the hors categorie climb near the midway point of the stage, Landa’s group made the catch on the ensuing descent.

With no shortage of talented riders in the escape, it looked like a dangerous move. Movistar’s Andrey Amador, who had been in the initial break, hammered away at the front to pull the group along, helping extend the gap out to over three minutes. For a short time, Landa was in virtual second place in the general classification, but it was not to last.

Mikel Landa
Mikel Landa didn’t win the day, but the jury recognized him as stage 19’s most aggressive rider. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

In contrast to prior mountain stages, Sky was not the only team making a sustained effort in the GC group. In an attempt to isolate Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, LottoNL-Jumbo hit the front and set a strong tempo in the reduced peloton, spelling trouble for the escapees.

The way Landa saw it, cooperation in the break was lacking as well.

“Unfortunately, it was a really hard day, with descents in which we really had to pedal, and breakaway companions that sometimes didn’t give all they had,” he said.

The break’s advantage dwindled on the category two Col des Bordères, and it was well under two minutes at the start of the Col d’Aubisque. Landa, Bardet, and Majka saw their chances at a stage win slipping away and attacked out of the remnants of the break. They held on until the second half of the tough final climb but were ultimately all reeled in, with Majka the last man out front before a divebombing Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) brought him to heel. With the road tilting downhill to the finish, the door for Landa to snatch a stage win from this frustrating Tour was shut.

Roglic went on to take the victory. Landa settled for a combativity award.

He did also manage to move one spot up in the general classification, from seventh to sixth, but only because his bruised and battered teammate Quintana struggled on the final climbs and came home over seven minutes behind Roglic. That saw the two-time Tour runner-up tumble down to ninth overall.

With only Saturday’s stage 20 time trial and Sunday’s sprinter-friendly finale left, Landa will have to be content with his GC top 10 and Movistar’s commanding lead in the teams’ classification — which the teams themselves tend to celebrate more than fans.

Still, he was not ruing his Tour campaign after Friday’s stage, finding reasons to be content after a few tough breaks early on, including a hard crash in stage 9.

“It’s the first year I’ve really tried to do something in the Tour,” he said. “Last year I was fourth but riding for someone else. I’m satisfied to end up where I have.”

Andrew Hood contributed to this report from Laruns, France.

Read the full article at Tour de France: Landa’s last gasp comes up short in stage 19 on VeloNews.com.

Valverde, Landa call for allies, but ‘ego’ could also loosen Sky grip

CARCASSONNE, France (AFP) — Movistar pair Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa have appealed for allies to help loosen Geraint Thomas‘s grip on the yellow jersey as the Tour de France moves into the Pyrenees.

And the Spaniards believe “ego” and “ambition” could help them as well, as the British pair of Thomas and four-time champion Chris Froome bid to land the biggest prize in cycling.

Sky’s domination for the fourth consecutive year means Thomas is in prime position to claim his maiden Tour title, and Sky’s sixth Tour crown from the past seven editions. And with teammate Froome in second place at 1:39 behind, the British outfit has a second option ready and waiting, if Thomas loses time over the coming stages.

On paper, Sky’s biggest threat comes from Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), the 2017 Giro d’Italia champion who sits third overall at 1:50.

“It’s a different dynamic racing against Tom [Dumoulin] compared to a lot of other guys,” Froome admitted during the race’s rest day on Monday.

But with the race edging closer to the Spanish border, underperforming Movistar is expected to move up a gear.

Its highest-placed rider is former Sky rider Landa, who is 3:42 behind Thomas in sixth.

Hoping to also jump up the standings is climbing specialist Nairo Quintana, a former Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia winner who has dropped to eighth at 4:23.

Valverde believes Sky cold pay for its efforts over the first 15 stages, but hopes friends with common goals can come to Movistar’s aid as well.

“It’s the third week, they’ve been working a lot for a long time so maybe we can isolate Sky a bit,” said the Spanish veteran.

“But it would be good to have help from other teams.”

Tom Dumoulin
Tom Dumoulin remains confident he can challenge Team Sky’s two Tour leaders. Photo: Tim de Waele | Getty Images

Of Sky’s few rivals, Dumoulin has been most impressive.

Dumoulin finished runner-up to Froome in the Giro last May when the Briton secured his third consecutive grand tour victory.

Although LottoNL-Jumbo pair Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruiswijk have had ineffective stabs at Sky over the past week, Dumoulin is their biggest threat.

The Dutchman is the defending world time trial champion, so avoiding losing time to him in the Pyrenees is a priority for Sky before the penultimate-stage time trial next Saturday.

Froome doesn’t expect fireworks from the Sunweb team leader but warned: “He’s obviously a very different type of rider to ride against, compared to a lot of my rivals in the past, guys like [Alberto] Contador and Quintana and even [Vincenzo] Nibali.

“Even the way he approaches the climbs and the mountaintop finishes, he’s quite happy to drop off a fair few meters behind the main group when there’s big accelerations.

“He’s quite steady. He doesn’t ride on feelings alone.”

But Dumoulin alone is unlikely to panic Sky.

For Landa, only a concerted effort from fellow riders with the shared goal of reaching the podium in Paris will work.

And he believes the personal ambitions of Froome and Thomas could also play a role.

“We know how difficult it is to surprise Sky and how good they are, but we have to keep trying to wear them out, put them in difficulty,” said Landa.

“Dumoulin and Roglic should collaborate and help.”

He added: “Up till now, it’s been calm between Thomas and Froome, but it’s clear both of them have a lot of ambition.

“Thomas is on the verge of achieving a feat that cyclists dream of, to win the Tour.

“For Froome, it would be a record-equalling fifth Tour. Sooner or later, the ego and ambition of each of them will show.”

Read the full article at Valverde, Landa call for allies, but ‘ego’ could also loosen Sky grip on VeloNews.com.

Landa: Maybe Sky isn’t as strong as before

ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) — Everyone in the Tour de France peloton seems to be on their knees after three days across the Alps. Except Team Sky.

Sprinters are abandoning, pre-race favorites are fading, yet Team Sky looks as strong as ever with Geraint Thomas in yellow and Chris Froome tucked in at second.

Yet Movistar’s Mikel Landa sees a ray of light. The former Sky rider is sensing a few fractures in Sky’s Fortress Froome.

“We are seeing Sky strong, but maybe they’re not as strong as a unit as they have been before,” Landa said after Thursday’s stage 12. “That gives us a little bit of hope to be able to do something in the Pyrénées.”

Landa rode two seasons in Sky colors and was instrumental in help Froome win last year’s Tour en route to his fourth place overall.

From the outside, Sky might seem as strong as ever. Landa, however, sees hints of an opening to attack Sky’s flanks.

“These three days have been brutal in the Alps and we saw Sky a little bit more tired as well,” Landa continued. “If there’s an opening, we have to be ready to take it.”

Mikel Landa
Mikel Landa rolled up to the start of stage 10 bandaged from a fall on the cobblestones, but he had no trouble in the Tour’s first Alpine stage. Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Landa’s take might seem a little off-kilter considering how Thomas has won two stages in a row and holds a commanding lead over his teammate and defending Tour champ Froome.

But Landa is also seeing how Thomas and Froome might start to fray at the edges if the leadership issue isn’t resolved. Team Sky continues to say its first bet is on Froome.

“I don’t know how they will handle [leadership],” he said. “Sky is always strong, and Froome is always good in a grand tour, but the Tour is far from over. We have to keep fighting, be it the podium, a stage win, or whatever.”

Movistar has done its best to take it to Team Sky for two days in a row with mixed results. Alejandro Valverde attacked Wednesday and Thursday but lost time, while Nairo Quintana struggled to keep pace Thursday and on Alpe d’Huez lost 47 seconds to Thomas. Landa rode through back pain to fight for the stage 12 win, crossing the line fifth at seven seconds back. Landa, who crashed heavily on the cobblestone stage, leads the Movistar “blues” in seventh at 3:13 back.

“My back was hurting even worse today than it was yesterday. When I make a hard push, I can feel I am losing power,” Landa said. “I gave it a little run there at the end, they caught me, and I ended up even losing a little bit more.

“I am very satisfied, to tell the truth. On the first climb and descent, I was really suffering, and I had in mind to go home. That things turned around and I was able to be in the fight leaves me very satisfied.”

Landa vows to keep fighting and is emerging as Movistar’s best GC candidate after the team came to the Tour with three options.

“I have a problem; I know I should be there, but my crash at Roubaix is really impacting me,” Landa said. “The last week the heart and the head will count for even more.”

Read the full article at Landa: Maybe Sky isn’t as strong as before on VeloNews.com.

Landa wants to help Movistar derail Sky train

LE-GRAND-BORNAND, France (VN) — Mikel Landa knows what it’s like to be inside Team Sky’s formidable train.

After racing two seasons inside the Sky machine, Landa is now on the outside looking in and vows to try to knock the Sky train off its rails.

“When you are part of that train, you see it differently; you are the strong one,” Landa told AS. “Now you’re on the outside, and you see Froome surrounded by four teammates.

“Sky perhaps commands respect with their numerical superiority. Nevertheless, we will try to take them on at the right moment. We want to knock them off their crown.”

Team Sky grabbed Tuesday’s first mountain stage of the 2018 Tour de France by the scruff of the neck. If anyone was wondering if its riders were somehow not up to the task, they found their answer.

Team Sky railed the GC group up and over the Tour’s first major climbs. No one dared lift a finger until Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) tried a late-climb zinger that was quickly snuffed.

“With their characteristic rhythm, so fast and so hard, no one even wanted to try,” Landa said.

Team Sky controlled the race at the front end of the GC group. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Movistar didn’t dare challenge Sky’s dominance in Tuesday’s climbing stage. Most teams were wary of what the Tour’s first mountain stage might hold, especially following nine hard stages of racing, a long transfer and Sunday’s bumpy stage over the cobblestones.

Landa raced with bandages to his right side but said he was “OK” despite falling in the neutral rollout in Annecy.

“The sensations were not bad. Sky set a very high rhythm and no one had the strength to attack,” Landa told VeloNews. “Today was a little bit complicated after the crash Sunday, but I arrived with the group. I am a little banged up but the legs are good.”

Movistar kept all three of its cards in play Tuesday. While it appeared Alejandro Valverde was dropped, he said his chain got stuck near the top of the Colombière and was otherwise able to regain contact to finish with the main GC group without too much drama.

Others in the peloton suffered as the Tour steered into the first major climbs after nine days of relatively flat terrain. A few top GC riders slipped back, including Rafa Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Rigoberto Urán (EF-Drapac).

Nairo Quintana admitted he felt some after-effects of Sunday’s pavé stage as he finished safely within the main contenders’ group.

“The body felt a little strange after the pavé and you always suffer a little bit after the rest day,” Quintana said. “We saw a few others struggling, but the bad luck hasn’t touched us.”

Like Landa, Quintana is bent on trying to knock Sky off its game. Tuesday’s stage wasn’t the right moment. Wednesday’s short and explosive stage will surely see more fireworks ahead of Alpe d’Huez on Thursday.

“These are three hard days where a lot of things can happen,” Quintana continued. “There is a lot of climbing ahead of us, and we have to search for the right moment to try to attack and play our cards.”

Read the full article at Landa wants to help Movistar derail Sky train on VeloNews.com.

To Movistar, ‘safe’ feels like a victory

ROUBAIX, France (VN) — It wasn’t a win, but it sure felt like one. There were plenty of smiles, high-fives, and hugs around the Movistar bus after riders survived a Sunday in hell.

Finishing equal on time to the main GC rivals for Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana and staying even in Sunday’s bash-fest across the pavé, it felt like one.

“It was almost like a victory to get all three across the line today with all the favorites,” said Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué. “To leave here still ‘alive’ is so important for us. To be at the front all day was truly impressive.”

There was a collective sense of relief. Even if the team lost key pavé helper José Joaquín Rojas in an early crash and later saw Mikel Landa go down in a heavy fall, Movistar knows it’s still in the game.

“We overcame the day, and we were very attentive as a team,” Quintana said. “We saved the day, and we’ve managed to avoid troubles and now we’re getting closer to the mountains. I lost some time on the first day, but I hope to recover that in the mountains.”

When the dust settled off the cobblestones Sunday, Movistar was in an enviable position. Valverde and Quintana finished in the front group, and Landa came through just seven seconds back.

It was “mission accomplished” for the Spanish “blues” who were quietly fearing this stage.

There was a sense of jubilation knowing that their three-card option is still very much in play.

Landa crashed hard with about 30km to go when he took his hand off the bars to take a drink and hit a hole in the road. Movistar later sent Andrey Amador and Imanol Erviti back to help pace him back to nearly the tail-end of the group, losing just seven seconds to the GC favorites.

“So far, so good,” Landa said. “We’ve managed to save the day every day, including today. Seven seconds for me isn’t so much when I could have lost a lot more. I am happy with how the first part of the Tour has wrapped up on a good note.”

Movistar sees Valverde near the top of the leaderboard, and Landa and Quintana in solid position. Even if Quintana lost time on the first-day mechanical, the team leaves the cobblestones in the rearview mirror with the steep climbs of the Alps looking deliciously on the horizon.

“It’s a shame about what happened to Landa. He’s beat up but I think he will be OK,” Valverde said. “‘Chapeaux’ to the whole team today. It was a key stage today and now we are all optimistic about where we are on GC. Now we are riding into ‘our’ terrain. We can hope for the best.”

Read the full article at To Movistar, ‘safe’ feels like a victory on VeloNews.com.