Having moved from tenth to eight overall after a solid time trial performance on Sunday, Mikel Landa went into Tuesday’s tenth stage of the Giro d’Italia determined to continue his bid to win the race. However despite sounding confident before the start of the stage, he very quickly got into problems and was dropped on the day’s first climb, the category three Passo della Collina.
— Mike Kaltoft Jensen (@MikeKaltoft) May 17, 2016
It seems a difficult start for Landa. pic.twitter.com/q11PQMeYRc
— Marco Pinotti (@marcopinotti) May 17, 2016
He and several Sky teammates chased but with his deficit growing and his legs not coming around, Landa took the decision to quit the event.
According to Team Sky, the Spaniard is ill.
“Mikel woke up early this morning feeling unwell with abdominal pains. It appears as though he has a viral gastroenteritis,” stated the team doctor Inigo Sarriegui. “We will assess him at the team hotel and then determine the best course of treatment to ensure he recovers as quickly as possible.”
Team Principal Dave Brailsford said that the issue started last night.
“Mikel was ill overnight but we spoke this morning and he started today’s stage with the hope of being able to pull through.
“It was pretty clear that the illness had badly affected him and that he wasn’t going to be able to continue. We are really disappointed for Mikel, who was riding well and looking forward to attacking in the mountains and animating the race.”
Landa was the squad’s big hope for the general classification in the race. He won two stages last year and finishing third overall; some believe he might have challenged for the win, but he was instructed to ride for his-then Astana teammate Fabio Aru, who took the final Maglia Rosa.
Speaking yesterday, Landa said that his position one minute and 18 seconds off pink was something that gave him optimism.
“We’ve finished the week with a gap of less than a minute to the favourites and I’m really happy to be in this position,” he said then.
“It’s been a difficult start to the Giro. In these early stages there’s always a lot of stress. No one wants to lose any time, so it’s been a big battle just as we expected. We also had two time trials during the first nine stages, and it’s no secret these are not the best stages for me.
“Right now I’m in a better position than I expected and I have to be happy, because now the best part of the Giro begins for me. I’m really optimistic for the next group of stages.”
He said that the time trial was perhaps his best race against the clock and motivated him for the upcoming mountains. He expected to be able to do something there.
“With the climbs coming up in the second week it’s time now to try to make a difference. This is the best terrain for me. If the feelings are good like I had in the time trial, then we will hope to take some time.”
Unfortunately for Landa that hasn’t worked out. The team will now focus on going for stage wins, while he may return as a domestique for Chris Froome in the Tour de France.
According to Brailsford, Sky will bounce back. “We came here as a team and we’ll continue as a team. There is a long way still to go, and although our focus was on Mikel, there’s plenty of time for us to still make an impact at this Giro.”
The plan B approach is one the team has had to take before: GC leader Bradley Wiggins dropped out of the 2013 race, while Richie Porte started as the team’s number one but also withdrew in 2015.