Mikel Landa’s first Tour de France with his new team, Bahrain McLaren, ended on a high note at the stage 20 time trial up La Planche des Belles Filles. The Spaniard finished 14th on the day and benefitted from a woeful ride by Astana’s Miguel Ángel López to jump up to fourth overall one day before the race finale in Paris.
The 30-year-old has historically been a poor time trialist, a trait which has cost him dearly in Grand Tours. At last year’s Giro d’Italia he fell from third to fourth on the final day TT in Verona, at the 2018 Tour he dropped a spot to seventh in Espelette, while at the 2015 Giro he lost four minutes to eventual winner Alberto Contador, finishing 3:05 down in Milan.
This time around, though, it was a happier day for Landa as he crossed the line 3:27 down on Pogačar, finishing within a minute of challengers from behind Enric Mas (Movistar) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling), but crucially gaining 2:50 on López to propel himself up to fourth.
“It’s been a good end to this Tour,” he said after the stage. “We started quite bad with some crashes, we lost a teammate and some of us had a lot of pain everywhere. We’ve been working together, making a nice group and connecting better and better day-by-day.”
As well as Landa’s fourth place, Bahrain McLaren had further reason to celebrates as teammate Damiano Caruso finished tenth overall, leapfrogging Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with a fine seventh place on stage 20.
“At the end we finished fourth and tenth position with Damiano also,” said Landa. “We were very strong as a team and I think that we made a good project with the TT bike, with me working and looking always to the future to come back here again and we can do even better.
“It was a really good three weeks, a good effort by the whole team, especially for Mikel,” added Caruso. “For us it’s a good result and also the top ten for me is an amazing feeling.”
Landa’s aim is to improve next time he comes to the Tour, after this, his debut Grand Tour as a sole GC leader, threw up a few weak points. He was caught out in the crosswinds at Lavaur, shedding 1:21, while a planned assault on the Col de la Loze just didn’t come, despite Bahrain working for much of that stage.
Sunday’s stage to Paris won’t see Landa on the final podiums – he’ll finish 2:28 behind Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) in third, but it’s a positive to build on. He’ll match his previous best Tour result in Paris – a fourth place at the 2017 race.
“This experience has been very good for us,” he said. “We know what we’re missing, and we know our strongest points too. We’ll keep working and come back.”