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VALDEPENAS DE JAEN, Spain (VN) — Enric Mas is riding a wave of form and growing confidence as he goes “elbow-to-elbow” with Primož Roglič at the Vuelta a España.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is riding with renewed confidence as he pedals toward a possible podium — or more — as the Spanish grand tour enters its decisive final phase.
For Mas, who’s been saddled with the title of Spain’s Next Big Thing, his top performances so far have come with a mix of relief and enthusiasm.
“The best moment of my career? I believe so,” Mas said Wednesday after kicking to second up the wall at Valdepeñas de Jaén. “Roglič, along with Pogačar and a few others, is the rider of reference in the peloton today. And to be racing to win in this Vuelta, elbow to elbow with him, is the biggest moment of my career.”
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Mas dug deep on the wall to try to drop Roglič, but couldn’t follow when the Slovenian turned on the afterburners in the final 150 meters. Trailing across the line assured Mas remains Roglič’s most dangerous rival so far in this Vuelta.
At 35 seconds back, any wobble by Roglič could see Mas first in line to profit.
“The team continues to work very well,” Mas said. “We’re missing [Alejandro] Valverde and Johan [Jacobs], but with the team we have, and we’re feeling it every day, we can fight for everything in this Vuelta.”
With Miguel Ángel López also hovering in the top-10 less than one minute behind Mas, Movistar is poised for its first podium since Valverde finished second in the 2019 Vuelta.
Some see Mas as heir apparent to Alberto Contador and Spain’s “golden generation” that also included Carlos Sastre, Alejandro Valverde, Joaquin Rodríguez, and Oscar Freire.
After hitting second in the 2018 Vuelta in just his second grand tour, the hype machine went into overdrive in Spain.
Spanish media, hungry for a new star to drive fan interest, are hoping that Mas can deliver during this Vuelta.
Mas was fifth overall in his second Tour de France in 2020, but couldn’t follow that up with a hoped-for podium finish in 2021, ultimately settling for sixth.
Undeterred, the hard-working Mas came into this Vuelta intent on quieting the critics and living up to what many see as his untapped potential.
Even with the loss of Valverde to a crash in the first week, Movistar is riding with confidence as the team continues to push Jumbo-Visma.
“We’ll keep racing day to day and taking opportunities when they arise,” said Movistar sport director Patxi Vila. “Enric and Miguel are ready to lead this team. Even without Alejandro, the team will continue fighting for everything in this Tour.”
With the likes of Egan Bernal struggling, Mas, López, and Movistar have emerged as the most direct and dangerous rival to Jumbo-Visma.
“I keep saying the most important thing is to take it day by day in this Vuelta, and today we did a great job,” López said. “This Vuelta is long, just like for Roglič and for us. We have to keep knocking off the days; it’s one day less and we’re content.”