25-year-old Mas moved across to his home team from Deceuninck-Quick-Step at the start of the season having ridden to a confident victory at the Tour of Guangxi in his last race with the ‘Wolfpack.’ And now he’s ready to take the hopes of his nation on his shoulders leading a new-look, youthful Movistar team alongside 26-year-old Marc Soler and veteran Alejandro Valverde.
Movistar has drawn criticism in past seasons through its insistence on maintaining a joint leadership strategy, having Valverde, Nairo Quintana, and Mikel Landa race as equals in grand tours. On many occasions, the strategy has faltered — most notably in last year’s Tour de France, where the trio seemingly scrapped among themselves for GC placings to finish sixth (Landa), eighth (Quintana), and ninth (Valverde).
However, with Landa, Quintana, and Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz all leaving the team at the end of 2019, Mas was confident his move from Quick-Step was the right one.
“During the Tour and the Vuelta I read many comments on social networks towards the team [about tactics] and some are harsh,” he said. “That can be changed and I think it will be so. But I never had doubts about signing for Movistar. I knew that Nairo was leaving, and almost certainly Mikel too, so it was clear that there would be no such behaviors prior to my arrival at the team.”
Mas instead focussed on last year’s Giro d’Italia as an example of where Movistar has played all the right moves. The race saw Carapaz claim the pink jersey for Movistar after Landa sacrificed his own chances at success to support Carapaz’s GC challenge.
“You see the coexistence that took place there and that is the coexistence that I would like to have during the three years that I have signed by this team to all the races that I go to,” Mas said in an interview with YouTuber Valenti Sanjuan.
Alberto Contador set alight Spanish hopes in 2017 when he dubbed then-22-year-old Mas as a future star of cycling. The next year, Mas fanned the flames of the hype when he placed second at the Vuelta a España, winning a stage along the way.
Now the 25-year-old finds himself leading one of the oldest teams in cycling, and a Spanish sporting institution. He seems unfazed.
“I think I will take it well, I love the pressure,” Mas said. “There are many people who try to put pressure on me, but it goes through one ear and comes out the other. It is a type of pressure that I like, to be able to lead a team like this that has been in the cycling elite for 40 years. It is a real luxury.”
While Mas may be leading the charge for results in stage races and grand tours when the season resumes, he acknowledges that it is Valverde that will act as the spokesman for the team.
“I mean to lead, but the leader is Valverde — we have to be clear about that,” Mas said, speaking of the 40-year-old as a master to his apprentice. “Every time he speaks, I try to be very attentive because he has had so many years of experience in professional cycling, that if he says one thing it is because it is going to happen.”
For now, Mas isn’t worrying about leadership or pressure, and is instead focussing on his own results.
“Regarding what Alberto said a few years ago… It is true that I have been able to achieve good results, but I still need to do a little more,” he said. “I will try to demonstrate everything I have trained over the years.”