So much so that he publicly apologized to his teammates and to Spanish fans for falling short.
“I ask forgiveness to the Spanish fans, to fans of the Movistar team, and to the team for not being able to win,” Mas said. “The team was exceptional, but I just didn’t have the punch in the end to win.”
Movistar ramped up the pressure midway through Sunday’s short but explosive five-climb stage ending atop the famous steeps of the Alto de l’Angliru. The entire team piled on to soften up the bunch for Mas, riding this season with Movistar in his first full year as an outright protected GC leader.
So far in this Vuelta, Mas has been consistently in the mix, with six top-10s in the opening 12 stages, but he’s been a touch behind the top-four riders leading the GC. Last week, Movistar cranked up the heat during the stage to Moncalvillo, only to see Mas fall flat in the closing kilometers.
On Sunday, Mas wanted to win the stage to pay back the efforts of his teammates.
“I’m happy with the big picture at the stage, but not with the final result,” said Mas, who finished third on the stage. “We started with the intention of winning the stage. Everyone was motivated, myself and the team, and I knew I felt good, and with such a short and explosive stage, I thought I could hope to win.”
Once the bunch hit the feared final assault of the Angliru, Mas was tucked in on the wheels as Jumbo-Visma took over on the final ramps. Mas jumped with just over 3.5km to go, which is still very far on a climb as steep and unforgiving as the Angliru. In the achingly steep grades of the Angliru, where the 24-percent ramps slowed the world’s best climbers to a virtual crawl, Mas opened up a small gap.
Mas, who is coming off a career-best fifth overall at the Tour, simply didn’t have the spark in his legs to follow. Carthy stayed clear for the victory, and Mas, Carapaz, and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) trailed across at 16 seconds back.
Mas, who was called Spain’s next big grand tour winner by none other than Alberto Contador, vows to keep fighting with one week of racing left at the 2020 Vuelta.
“I couldn’t pull it off, but we’re a little bit closer to that feeling that we’re looking for,” Mas said. “There’s still a week of this Vuelta to try to pay back everyone a nice victory.”