Giro d’Italia: Mission accomplished for Mikel Landa in slow burn for pink

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The glass was more than half full for Mikel Landa on Wednesday’s Stage 17 despite losing a handful of seconds to his direct Giro d’Italia rivals.

Landa bounced off the virtual podium, now in third place at 1:05 of the same day his Colombian teammate Santiago Buitrago in Bahrain Victorious won the stage on a breakaway.

“I would say it was a really good day for us,” Landa said on Wednesday. “We had another tough mountain stage, and on the penultimate climb we took control. We put a higher pace to make the stage a little more difficult.

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With Buitrago clear in the winning break of the day, Landa’s teammates Pello Bilbao and Wout Poels took deep turns to whittle down the leading group at the crucial moment of GC selection.

Climbing with his hands on the drops in his trademark style, Landa attempted to turn the screws on podium rivals Richard Carapaz and Jai Hindley.

The leading pair fought back, but Landa made progress after João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) gave ground with a few others, giving Landa some breathing room when he looks over his shoulder this weekend.

“We tried to drop some contenders, but we found Hindley and Carapaz very strong, but we gained a few seconds on Almeida and that’s a good sign,” Landa said.

Landa now leads Almeida by 49 seconds, who dropped to fourth in the virtual race for the final podium on Sunday in Verona.

Sunday’s final time trial will already be on everyone’s tactical calculator, and Thursday’s transition stage offers GC contenders a short respite before Friday and Saturday’s big final days in the Dolomites.

Although he lost the wheel in the final meters on Wednesday, costing Hindley and Carapaz six seconds, Landa is steadily solidifying his position for a final podium chase.

“I’m happy with the performance of the team and I’m super happy with Santi,” Landa said of Buitrago. “He tried for a few days and today we saw the great class he has.”

Sometimes in bike racing it’s one step back to take two steps forward.

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