Giro d’Italia: ‘I didn’t have the best feelings’ says Mikel Landa of the Marmolada stage

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This article originally appeared on Velo News

MARMOLADA PASSO FEDAIA, Italy (VN) - While Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) produced a typically spirited performance on the Giro d'Italia's final mountain stage to the summit of the legendary Fedaia pass, he once again looks set to come up short of claiming an elusive grand tour victory.

The Spaniard did manage to gain time on race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) on the final steep ramps up to the finish, but he was unable to follow the searing attack made by Bora-Hansgrohe's Jai Hindley that resulted in the Australian rocketing away from his rivals and into what looks like an unassailable lead ahead of Sunday's final day time trial in Verona.

"I didn't have the best feelings, perhaps yesterday's stage took a bit more out of me than I thought," Landa admitted at the finish. "I think we worked well. We had Domen Novak in the breakaway and we tried to set a hard pace in the maglia rosa group, but I think we were all suffering a bit.

"We had a tailwind and it made it extremely fast. I did my best. I dropped back to begin with when the others attacked, but then I found my rhythm and I gained some time on Carapaz. That was good, but it was perhaps not enough to give me a chance of second place.”

“But tomorrow is the TT and this isn't finished until the last K. There's not much distance between us, so who knows? I'll certainly be giving it a go," said Landa, who now lies 26 seconds behind second-placed Carapaz on GC.

Also read: Giro d'Italia stage 20: Covi wins with long break as Carapaz cracks and Hindley surges to pink

His teammate Pello Bilbao, who was one of the cohort who set the tempo for Landa for much of the final section of the stage, said that Bahrain had been hoping to set their leader up for the stage win, just as they did Damiano Caruso on the equivalent stage last year.

"We wanted to win today with Mikel as we did last year with Damiano. We wanted to finish the Giro in the best way, but during the stage we realized that it was going to be too difficult to close the gap to the front group," Bilbao explained. "Today we saw that Jai Hindley was the strongest."

Bilbao revealed that neither Landa nor any of the Bahrain riders supporting him in the group of favorites felt in great shape once the stage reached its critical point.

"Mikel was not feeling 100%, and maybe in the peloton nobody was feeling super. We've seen that Carapaz also suffered after controlling the whole race," said the Spaniard.

"In the end, we were thinking that Domen was the best option," he continued. "We'd really like to see him win. I think he deserves it more than anybody else because he never thinks of himself, but for sure he will have a great victory because he showed incredible legs."

Bilbao said he hadn't been aware of Carapaz being in any difficulty before the Ecuadorean cracked unexpectedly in the Fedaia's savagely steep final five kilometers.

"We didn't see anything because we were riding on the front all day. I was just worried about Mikel's legs and I wasn't worried about how the rest of the riders were feeling," he explained.

But he added: "I guess that nobody was feeling good because we were talking to each other on the radio and everybody was commenting, 'I don't have the legs! I don't feel 100%.' But despite that we tried to control the pace until the end and make a good race and try the best until the end."

Wout Poels, who set the pace in the maglia rosa group for a long stretch coming into the bottom of the Fedaia, suggested that accumulated fatigue had taken its toll. "Now that we're in the third week, it was really hard," said the Dutch climber. "It's been a really hard Giro and it's always difficult to know how your feelings are going to be on the last weekend. You always hope for the best. In the team meeting everyone has lots of motivation, but it comes down to the legs on the road."

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