The uphill finish in Anras, Austria, revolutionized Giro del Trentino Melinda’s overall classification. Team Sky’s captain Mikel Landa made the best of the work of his teammates and attacked on the toughest slopes, the final ones of the 2nd stage from Arco to Anras, immediately opening a gap. Set up by the forcing by Moscon, the Spaniard increased his margin first on the hardest ramps, and then held on up to the finish. Even Vincenzo Nibali, his most expected riva, could not live up to his acceleration, eventually surrendering 32 seconds. The quickest men to react were Firsanov, Cunego, Ciccone and Fuglsang, who finished in the order, but they could not hold Landa.
“I was not sure this second stage would have been enough to make a difference – Landa explained – instead the over 200 km in the legs finally exacted their toll. This climb was perfect to me, and we had planned to push hard from the beginning and test my rivals on the climb. When I turned back and saw that several were on the back foot, I kicked out.”
The longest stage of this Giro del Trentino Melinda started from Arco at 8.45, and was characterized by a breakaway that was allowed to get clear after he first hour at a 43,300 km/h average. The seven riders upfront – Foliforov, Berlato, Rodriguez, Mendes, Cardoso, Gaffurini and Schoenberger, reached a maximum advantage of three minutes, but were always kept under control by the peloton, until Astana and Team Sky strongly accelerated as the race neared the Austrian border. Then came the last climb, and there Team Sky made the decisive forcing, launching Landa towards the stage win.
For the Basque rider, it was the second career win in the GS Alto Garda’s race after the success atop the Monte Bondone in 2014, and after also winning a Giro d’Italia stage in Trentino, last year in Madonna di Campiglio. “I love these places, and they are also bringing me good luck. I hope this will not be the only day for me to wear this jersey: I don’t know if I will be the first Spaniard to win Giro del Trentino Melinda, but I certainly feel closer to that goal today.”
In 24 hours, the race control passed from Astana, that dominated the opening TTT in the Garda Trentino, to Team Sky. But Landa is not counting Nibali out: “The route provides plenty of opportunities to attack, and after the altitude training, Vincenzo will feel better day by day: the race is still open.”
Last year’s precedent bodes well for Landa. Already in 2015, a Team Sky rider, Richie Porte, won Giro del Trentino Melinda’s stage 2, wearing the leader’s jersey in the process. We all remember how it ended up.
Tomorrow, Landa and Team Sky will be called to defend their leadership in stage 3, 204 km from Sillian (Austria) to Mezzolombardo (live on TV from 15.00). On the riders’ way will be two climbs, Nova Ponente and Fai della Paganella: the latter will be decisive also in the 16th stage of the upcoming Giro d’Italia. And, who knows, even the top protagonists might be the same.