Enric Mas soars to Vuelta a España top 10 overall
The double-digit gradients of Alto les Praeres couldn't stop the young Spaniard from gaining three places in the general classification.
Narrow roads, 18% slopes, rough surface, in a word, a farm track, that's what the Vuelta a España had in store at the finish on Saturday, on a tough stage which packed five classified climbs and 3000 vertical meters. On this unfriendly and challenging terrain, Enric Mas asserted himself again as one of the brightest young riders in the pro peloton, after making twice the selection – once when the bunch split with 40 kilometers to go – and then in the opening kilometer of the final climb, when a vicious acceleration left only a handful of riders in the main group, which went on to contest the victory.
Unperturbed by the ferocious ramps which put many riders into the red, the 23-year-old Mallorcan showed tenacity and courage as he bridged to Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with 2.5 kilometers to go, a move which signaled his intentions of being more than a witness in the fight between the big GC contenders.
When a regrouping took place after the toughest section of Les Praeres, which was making its debut in the race, Enric continued to be active and stay with the best, conceding time only with 700 meters to go, when a series of accelerations kicked off the fight for the stage victory. Quick-Step Floors' rider came across the line in seventh place, only 19 seconds down on winner and new red jersey Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), a result which catapulted him into the top 10 overall ahead of the iconic Lagos de Covadonga.
"Day by day I am feeling better and I hope tomorrow will be even better than today. I don't set any specific goals, I just want to enjoy the race, do my best and see where that will get me. The team helped me again today and this support means a lot in such a tough race. I'm glad to make my way into the top 10, but for the moment I want to take it day by day, as the Vuelta is still long and many more tough stages lie ahead", said Enric Mas, the youngest rider in the general classification top 10, where he lies in eighth place.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images