Mikel Landa: “Nibali will be hard to beat”

Mikel Landa, 26, is one of the most highly rated climbers in cycling and won two stages of last year’s Giro on the way to finishing third overall.

Team Sky beat a host of rival teams to his signature, but illness hampered the start of his 2016 season and he only made his first appearance for the British squad at the end of March.

Although he won a mountain stage of last month’s Tour of the Basque Country, he was still short of form and could only finish 12th overall, but he appeared to be in far better condition when winning a stage and the overall title at the Giro del Trentino just under two weeks ago.

Mikel Landa: “I resumed racing only a little while ago so I don’t think I peaked too early at the Giro del Trentino. I believe I can still improve. It’s not a problem to have a sprinter in the team (Elia Viviani) because, if he wins, he can create a good feeling in the team, and it will keep us concentrated in the sprint stages, so I think it’ll play in my favour. It’s a great opportunity for me to lead Team Sky at the Giro d’Italia d’Italia, after a spell riding with Vincenzo Nibali at Astana. He’s very strong, uphill as much as downhill. He’s got real power and he’ll be hard to beat.”

Giro d’Italia starts Friday in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn, where the British team relies not on one British rider.

“A win here is for Great Britain, for Sky. The team is British, it’s not only the riders, it’s the staff and the helpers. It’s a national project, not just one rider.”

“We won our first monument, Liège-Bastogne-Liège last month, it’s time to win the first Giro d’Italia,” said Italian Sports Director Dario Cioni. “It would be a British win, many of the staff are British. The team is British, that’s the first thing.”

“The goal was to win the Tour with a British rider in the first five years, but we didn’t ever set off with the goal of just having a 100 per cent British team. There was always a foreign element in the team with Colombians, Australians, Italians, Spaniards… The structure is British, but the team is not completely British. We are just trying to take the best team possible to the races, sometimes that means with a Brit, but sometimes there isn’t one.”