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Just days after publicly apologizing for falling short of victory at the Alto de l’Angliru on Sunday, the budding Spanish star once again did not hold back in his appraisal of his time trial performance Tuesday.
“It was a disaster,” Mas said. “I never felt comfortable on the bike. I was hoping for more.”
Following a promising fifth overall at the 2020 Tour de France, Mas came into this Vuelta backed by a strong and motivated Movistar team and had aspirations for overall victory. After a promising start, he struggled to match the explosive power of the top GC favorites in the decisive race against the clock.
After finishing third at Angliru, Mas was hoping a strong time trial Tuesday would revive his podium hopes. The Spaniard struggled throughout the 33.7km route capped by the wall-like climb in the final two kilometers up to the Ézaro summit. Instead of moving up, Mas struggled throughout the test against the clock, ceding 1:43 to stage-winner and race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
Mas remained fifth overall, but slipped further away from a possible podium run, and started Wednesday’s stage 3:23 behind Roglič. Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling), following a top ride from the Brit, is solidly in podium range, in third at 47 seconds in arrears, meaning that Mas is more than two minutes off the podium.
“Now all I can think about is recovering,” Mas said. “Then we’ll speak about what still lies ahead, and if I can try to get on the final podium in Madrid.”
No penalty for bike change
Some were surprised to see Movistar do the bike swap at the base of the Ézaro climb outside of the designated zone allocated for teams to change the time trial bikes for lighter climbing frames for the final run up the steep ramps.
Like most teams, Movistar previewed the time trial course before the start Tuesday and even practiced the bike change maneuver a few times with different riders. When Mas arrived at the exchange zone, however, the team decided to swap bikes further up the road, where a mechanic jumped out of the team car to do the swap rather than staffers waiting in the prescribed bike change area.
Some wondered if that would trigger a penalty by race officials. Sport director José Luis Arrieta did receive a fine by the race jury, but the citation was “leaning out of the team vehicle,” and nothing related to the bike change.
“That was an internal decision,” Mas said. “It was completely legal.”