In one fell swoop in the Vuelta a España on Saturday, up-and-coming Spaniard Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) secured both second overall in his home race and his first stage win in a Grand Tour to boot.
The symbolism of Mas replacing Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) – a rider 15 years his senior and who sank from second to fifth on the Vuelta’s second Pyrenean stage – as Spain’s top podium finisher in the 2018 Vuelta was hard to miss too.
Mas is widely seen as representative of a new generation of racers in his country – and further afield, too – and last year he was tipped by Alberto Contador as a possible successor, too. And although whether he can really follow Contador’s wheel tracks remains to be seen, the young racer from Mallorca certainly exceeded expectations on stage 20 of the Vuelta, narrowly outduelling Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) for a victory at the race’s final summit finish and moving into second overall.
In the process, Mas also secured Quick-Step Floor’s third stage of the 2018 Vuelta a España in another successful Grand Tour for the Belgian squad. And in Madrid on Sunday, they may yet add a fourth with Elia Viviani.
Given he has raised his own bar in such dramatic style, Mas was even asked on Saturday evening if at any point on stage 20 he had thought whether he could take the overall win after Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) started to lag behind himself and Lopez, but the young Spaniard said he had never seen that as a realistic option.
“To be honest when I went away with Lopez, I had no idea that Yates was distanced. It was only when they radioed through that he was behind that I found that out,” Mas said later.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com