Mikel Landa to leave Team Sky and join Movistar

Basque rider signs two-year deal with Spanish team

Mikel Landa will leave Team Sky after two seasons, after signing a two-year deal with Movistar.

Landa, 27, joined Sky in 2016 after two seasons with Astana, and played an integral role in Chris Froome’s Tour de France win this year – finishing fourth himself, one second off the overall podium.

But rumours of divisions within the team were rife throughout the race, with the Spaniard admitting he had been frustrated at not being able to pursue his own opportunities.

And, as expected, Landa will now leave the British WorldTour squad, linking up with Spanish team Movistar from next year.

Team manager Eusebio Unzue said: “It’s great news for us. Being still a young rider and with everything that’s he’s shown, he should be the rider who leads Spanish cycling for the next few years.”

Mikel Landa will leave Team Sky to join Movistar on a two-year deal (pic – Sirotti)

Landa finished third at the Giro d’Italia in 2015, and may have finished higher were it not for his commitments to Fabio Aru, who finished second.

It prompted a move to Team Sky that winter, having won stages at both the Giro and then the Vuelta a Espana, but, after winning the Giro del Trentino, he abandoned the 2016 Giro d’Italia through illness.

This time out, he was to co-lead the team with Geraint Thomas, but when both crashed on Blockhaus on stage nine, his GC ambitions were hit.

Nevertheless, Landa recovered well to win a stage and claim the King of the Mountains jersey, before continuing his form at the Tour de France.

When Thomas was forced to abandon the Tour too, Landa became Froome’s number two, and his form in the mountains was such that he only narrowly missed the overall podium himself – something he would undoubtedly have achieved were it not for team orders earlier in the race.

He has since gone on to win two stages and all three classifications at the Vuelta a Burgos, taking his tally to seven wins in his two years with Team Sky.

The move – and Unzue’s comments – will intensify rumours that Movistar’s star rider Nairo Quintana is set to depart, despite holding a contract until 2019.

Quintana has been linked with a move to Astana in La Gazzetta dello Sport, with Fabio Aru set to leave the Kazakh team for the riches of UAE Team Emirates.

It follows reports of disagreements between the team and the Colombian two-time Grand Tour winner over his 2017 programme, which saw him unsuccessfully target a Giro-Tour double.

After finishing second in the former, losing the maglia rosa on the final stage time trial, Quintana was unable to adequately recover for the Tour and finished 12th.

Landa was crowned King of the Mountains at the Giro d’Italia this year (pic – Sirotti)

Veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, 37, currently recovering from the fractured kneecap he suffered on stage one of this year’s Tour, is also contracted until 2019.

But Quintana’s agent has denied the rumours the 2014 Giro d’Italia and 2016 Vuelta a Espana will leave Movistar this winter.

Landa, meanwhile, is Movistar’s third transfer confirmed in the current transfer window, with Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Oscaro) and Jaime Roson (Caja Rural-Seguros) both stepping up to the UCI WorldTour next year.

The future of British rider Alex Dowsett, whose contract with the Spanish team ends this year, is yet to be confirmed.

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