The fall and rise of Remco Evenepoel and the rise and rise of the triumvirate of Jumbo-Visma have dominated much of the Vuelta a España news cycle so far, but the Spanish contenders remain in the game and in the third week are the best placed to challenge
Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) and Enric Mas (Movistar) are currently running fourth and fifth behind the Kuss-Roglič-Vingegaard trio, with Ayuso lying at 2:37 and Mas at 3:06.
Mas has finished second on three occasions – in 2018, 2021 and 2022 – while Ayuso finished third last year.
Ayuso’s proximity to the podium position means he is so closely watched by Jumbo-Visma that he recently joked that “even when I stop for a pee, I turn round and Roglič is there,” Mas is the more experienced Vuelta challenger.
But even with his longstanding experience observing GC battles, as he told reporters on Monday’s rest day, there is no sign of internal conflict between Jumbo-Visma’s three leaders.
“I don’t think there’s any bad vibe between them, they’re a team. Each one can have their own individual take on things, but they don’t show that,” Mas told reporters during Movistar‘s rest day press conference.
“They’re very united and I don’t think they will attack each other. A wholely different question is if one of them starts to crack and the others don’t stay back with him.”
Mas sagely pointed out that this lack of a power struggle was not just because the three knew how to work well together. It was also because after such a successful season to date, it was in nobody’s interests to upset the applecart at this point in the game, and risk problems long-term
“After winning the Giro with Roglič and the Tour with Vingegaard, they don’t need a bad vibe. I don’t think they’ll start getting on badly and making life difficult for themselves.”
“If it was me, I’d be happy seeing how my usual last man in the mountain stages [Kuss – Ed.] can win the Vuelta. And I think inside the team they’d be delighted with the chance of winning a Grand Tour with three different riders.”
Mas had words of praise for Remco Evenepoel and how the Soudal-QuickStep rider had managed to turn things around, going from a debacle on one day in the Pyrenees to a spectacular victory the next.
“He’s shown he’s a real star, and I think he’s going to keep on fighting hard all the way to the end of the Vuelta.”
While Evenepoel is no longer a threat overall, despite the lack of cracks in the Jumbo armour, Mas’ own goals remain the GC. He is so taken with…