There will be no easing back into racing for Enric Mas after the crash that ruined his Tour de France crash, who will be pinning on a number for the first time since as the leader of Movistar’s Vuelta a España squad.
Attention may be on the Jumbo-Visma duo of Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard to challenge the defence of last year’s winner Remco Evenepoel, with Mas flying under the radar in no small part because of his absence from races since that stage one crash on the descent of the Alto de Vivero that left him with a broken right shoulder blade.
Though just because he hasn’t been racing doesn’t mean he hasn’t been building toward the race where last year he was runner-up to Evenepoel, with Mas’ social media revealing the rider preparing at altitude in recent weeks.
“We continue the preparation for La Vuelta a España at a good pace, with the hope of arriving in the best conditions at Barcelona’s departure,” said Mas in an Instagram post last week. “For this reason, we have decided to prioritise training over competition.”
Mas may not have exactly had a stellar season before that Tour de France crash, finishing 17th overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné run in race, but it was a tough 2022 too before he went on to take his second consecutive runner-up spot at the Vuelta. The 28-year-old finished second to Roglič in 2021, 4:42 back but it was a smaller 2:02 margin to Evenepoel last year, with the Spanish rider stepping up into a podium position right from stage 6 to Bilbao.
The race again starts with a team time trial this year, which will no doubt work against Mas, but it will not be long till the climbing and GC sorting begins. The first summit finale of a climb-heavy edition comes on just stage 3 at Arsinal in Andorra.
To tackle the 3,153.8km route, which also includes such punishing ascents as the Col du Tourmalet and Alto de l’Angliru and just three truly flat stages, Mas will have a team that includes Spanish road race champion Oier Lazkano, Colombia’s Einer Rubio, the Portuguese riders Nelson Oliveira and Ruben Guerreiro along with Spaniards Iván García Cortina, Jorge Arcas and Carlos Verona.
The Vuelta runs from August 26 to September 17, slotting into a slightly later date this year to fit in around the combined discipline Cycling World Championships in Glasgow.