Vuelta a España: Mas climbs to sixth overall
The 23-year-old continues to be the youngest rider in the general classification, one week from the finish in Madrid.
Two years ago, Enric Mas watched on TV how Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates battled out for the stage victory on the slopes of the iconic Lagos de Covadonga, a climb which since its debut in 1983 has become a regular fixture in the Vuelta a España, commanding respect and inspiring many remarkable feats. At the end of that season, he stepped to the World Tour with Quick-Step Floors and since then has embarked on a learning process which brought a memorable stage victory at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, several strong placings in stage races and now could very well culminate in a maiden Grand Tour top 10 finish.
Of course, Vuelta is still far from being over – with a testing individual time trial in Torrelavega and three more summit finishes to come on the last week – but the 23-year-old is entitled to hope and dream after his ride on the triple-whammy of summit finishes which sparked the GC fight at the end of the second week: La Camperona, Alto Les Praeres and Lagos de Covadonga.
On the latter – an 11.7km climb averaging 7.2% – Enric came with the same aggressive approach which helped him make inroads in the general classification one day earlier and went on the attack from a small group containing all the big red jersey contenders. Reeled in by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Mas powered again and that second acceleration dropped his countryman, Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) from the group.
The finale saw Enric emerge from the heavy mist and take a remarkable sixth place, half a minute behind stage winner Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), vaulting over two other riders in the general classification and moving himself closer to the top five overall: "I came here without any GC aspirations and it would be truly amazing to finish this Vuelta in the top 10 overall, but at the moment I still don't want to think of this, just keep enjoying the race. I am happy to see the confidence the team has in me and I hope to continue bringing other good results next week."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images