Giro d’Italia: Bahrain Victorious brings Mikel Landa, Pello Bilbao in one-two GC punch

The Spanish tandem hopes to go into the final week with all GC options still in play.

Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

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BUDAPEST (VN) — Many make hay about cycling’s big three teams, but it’s been Bahrain Victorious that’s been punching above its weight the past few seasons.

Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates might be dominating the grand tours of late, yet Bahrain Victorious is hitting podiums and edging ever closer to victory.

After a successful spring campaign, the team brings Mikel Landa and Pello Bilbao as a formidable one-two GC punch for the Giro d’Italia.

“I feel good. I think the Tour of the Alps improved my condition and I feel ready for the Giro,” Landa said. “The Giro is always hard to manage and difficult to control. I’ve never worn the pink jersey, but if it arrives, it will feel welcome. For sure you need a strong team to make it all the way with the pink jersey.”

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For Landa, who hit third in 2015 in his only grand tour podium, hopes to avoid crashes and early time losses that so often torpedo his GC chances.

He’s been twice fourth in the Tour de France, and once fourth in the Giro.

Last year, Landa was coming into the Giro sounding more confident than ever, but crashed out in the first week.

“The time trials are always decisive. Of course the Giro is also won in the final week,” Landa said. “It’s a course that I like, and it’s a good opportunity for me. There are less time trial kilometers and that always helps. The big summit finishes always prove decisive.”

Pello Bilbao: ‘I am at the disposition of the team’

Pello Bilbao won a stage at the Tour of the Alps. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Landa will also be hoping to avoid some of the GC leadership conflicts that have also hampered him during his stints at Movistar and Ineos Grenadiers.

For the Giro, Landa starts as the outright leader, with Bilbao waiting in the wings.

Bilbao, who’s come into 2022 very strong, vows to play the role that the team asks of him.

“I am at the disposition of the team, I’ve demonstrated that I can deliver when I have been asked,” Bilbao said. “Mikel will have the maximum responsibility, so I am motivated to race hard, to fight for a stage or for the the GC. I come into the race feeling good and with some big spring results, we’ll see what comes from the race and it’s a long three weeks.”

Bello, however, comes into the Giro with renewed motivation and confidence. He’s won two races and hit the podium at the UAE Tour to open his season.

“I don’t think we can wait until the last week to move. Of course, if we are in good position, we can ride a bit more defensively,” he said. “I believe that I am in a very good spot. I’ve learned a lot, I’m stronger and more mature, and I feel like I am still progressing. I don’t see why I should put any sort of any limits on myself.

“We’ll see after a week or so where each of us are positioned and we can make a better decision on who we’ll be backing,” Bilbao said. “Our objective is to leave here with the least amount of losses of possible, and with the stages that come, we’ll see where things shake out and how the GC will be decided.”

Last year, Bahrain Victorious was second with Damiano Caruso. Another podium would bode well for the team.

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