Enric Mas (Movistar) and race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in the last few kilometres of stage 9 of the Vuelta a España.

Enric Mas: ‘I don’t think I ever had Roglič up against the ropes’

Enric Mas (Movistar) finished third on stage 9 of the Vuelta a España, and was the only rider who could match Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) on the final climb.

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Movistar co-leader Enric Mas was the only GC favourite who could keep pace with Primož Roglič on the hors-category finishing climb of stage 9. Third place on the stage saw the Spaniard move back up to second overall, giving him the enviable status of Roglič’s ‘biggest rival’ with two weeks left of the Vuelta a España.

“I’m very happy,” Mas said after the stage. “I haven’t had these feelings in a long time on the bike. The last time I enjoyed racing as much as I have this week was back in 2018.”

Mas emphatically demonstrated his GC credentials at the 2018 Vuelta where he won stage 20 and finished second overall behind Simon Yates. In 2020, he netted fifth-place finishes at both the Tour and Vuelta, and earlier this summer, he ended the Tour de France with sixth overall.

The 26-year-old started the 2021 Vuelta sharing Movistar leadership with Miguel Ángel López, who finished fifth on stage 9 after getting into the thick of the repeated attacks on the Alto de Velefique. 

“Miguel Ángel [López] responded well to attacks early on and we both had to get as much time as we could on other rivals,” Mas said, “so that was what I tried to do.”

Mas followed all the right moves in the closing kilometres, and with 4 km to go, he and Roglič were glued together at the front of the GC race. By the finish, they’d gained themselves a gap of around 40 seconds to best-of-the-rest Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious), working well together until Roglič jumped away metres from the line.

“I don’t think I ever had Roglič up against the ropes, we were both going flat out,” Mas explained. “He’s the leader, he’s under no obligation to work with me, but even so, he collaborated well and it helped us both. I’m just happy, at the very least, to be at the same level as Roglič today on the climb.”

Roglič leads Mas by 28 seconds after the first nine days of racing, with López third 1:21 down. In short, Movistar are in a good position, even without Alejandro Valverde and Johan Jacobs who crashed out early in Sunday’s stage.

“We didn’t have him up against the cords, as I said.” Mas asserted. “But someday we’ll try.”

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