Vuelta a España: Fireworks in Andorra
With two stages left, Enric Mas is within touching distance of the podium at his home Grand Tour.
Enric Mas will start the final mountain stage of La Vuelta less than 20 seconds off the podium after moving down to fourth at the end of an eventful first day in Andorra, which included a super fast tempo in the opening hour before a breakaway finally got away, echelons that briefly split the peloton – and which Enric safely navigated with the help of Michael Mørkøv and Elia Viviani – and numerous attacks coming on the last climb of the stage, as several riders decided to roll the dice on the double-digit gradients a long way from the finish.
Coll de la Rabassa, the setting of today's fight between the overall contenders, returned to the race after a decade, and if the escapees took the spoils in 2008, this time around things went completely different, with the two-man breakaway – which never enjoyed more than one minute and a half – reeled in on the first slopes of the 17km-long ascent which averaged 6.6%.
Three riders, including the leaders of the race, showed their intentions early, opening a ten-second lead which they nudged out to a minute by the time they passed the 5km-to-go mark. From that group, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) sprinted some 200 meters from the line and took the victory, while Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) extended his advantage in the general classification.
Behind, from a small but select group, Enric Mas got our from the saddle and attacked, dropping Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and breaking away together with two other riders, reducing the deficit to the trio up the road while at the same time gaining time on the green jersey wearer, who was unable to follow them. Sixth atop the wearing Coll de la Rabassa and fourth in the GC after one of the hardest days of the race, Quick-Step Floors' 23-year-old Spaniard is still in with a solid shot of becoming one of the youngest riders to finish on the Vuelta a España overall podium this century.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images