LE PUY-EN-VELAY, France (AP) Mikel Landa has been so strong over the last two weeks that there is no doubt he could be a team leader at the Tour de France.
Despite riding in support of Chris Froome, Landa has been impressive in mountain stages and was stronger than Froome last week in the Pyrenees when the Team Sky leader struggled in the ascent to Peyragudes.
When Froome was dropped a few hundred meters from the finish line, Landa decided to chase down rivals, a move that raised questions about the Spaniard's loyalty.
He silenced the critics during Sunday's Stage 15 on the road to Le Puy-en-Velay.
Froome was dropped because of a mechanical problem on his bike ahead of the last big climb of the day. Landa stayed at the front when the incident happened, but he waited for his leader when it became obvious the three-time champion was able to come back.
''There is a lot of trust, no doubt, no question,'' Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said after the stage when asked about Landa's ambition. ''They are very much together as a pair riding for the overall (team), not riding against each other in any way.''
Landa, who is out of contract at the end of the season and is reportedly being courted by Team Sky rival Movistar, stands sixth overall - just 77 seconds behind Froome. He could be an alternative solution for Team Sky next week in the Alps if Froome struggles.
But for now, he remains a ''domestique,'' in cycling lingo a rider working for his team and leader at the cost of personal ambition.
''We saw today that Landa did not hesitate, he did the right thing, he stayed in the front,'' Brailsford said. ''And when he knew that Chris was coming, he just dropped off the pack and collected him, brought him to the front, and controlled. And in the finale he was very supportive of Chris. There are no issues.''