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Beating Pogacar in Tour de France will be 'complicated' says Enric Mas

Two leaders for the men's Movistar Team are Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas
Two leaders for the men's Movistar Team are Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas (Image credit: Movistar Team)

Enric Mas (Movistar) has flung his hat into the ring and confirmed that in 2022 he will be trying to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. But the Spanish stage racing specialist has been open, too, about how beating Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) will be anything but straightforward.

“That’s a complicated question,” the double Vuelta a España runner-up said when asked exactly how he planned to go about defeating the double Tour de France champion, as well as Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). “But the answer is simply working as hard as possible and then working hard some more.”

Mas was talking during the Movistar women's and men’s team presentation for 2022, in which the 27-year-old Spaniard also discussed the importance for him of a strong early season, similar to those of his first years as a pro with QuickStep “to gain confidence for my big objective which is the Tour.” 

Speaking alongside Alejandro Valverde, with Annemiek van Vleuten and Emma Norsgaard joining their Movistar co-leaders by video, Mas also pointed out that for the first time he would be sole leader for ’the blues’ in the Tour de France lineup.

“I’m 27, so it’s time to go it alone,” pointed out Mas, sixth last year and fifth in 2020 in the Tour. “But let’s not forget that Valverde will be with me in the Vuelta a España.”

His two objectives, he said, would be to make the podium of the Tour and Vuelta, “and hopefully in the highest spot of them all.” 

Mas agreed with several journalists present online that he needed to be more aggressive as a racer to do that, as “even if you end up losing, making one of those big attacks is what counts” former Tour de France winner and team presentation co-host Pedro Delgado bluntly told him. 

But Mas also argued that “another important thing is to improve in my time trialing.”

In the Movistar women’s team, like Mas for the men, Dutch star Van Vleuten pointed to the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift as her biggest 2022 objective and said that the World Championships as central to her second half of the season.

“I’ll use la Vuelta [Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta] as build-up, but the World’s seems tough, and a good course for me,” she said.

While Van Vleuten is 39, the former road and double TT World Champion is still going strong. Movistar’s promising young talent, 22-year-old Emma Norsgaard, said she was going to all out for the Classics and then the Tour. 

“Last year was a surprise for me, I don’t know if I can win Paris-Roubaix this year, “ Norsgaard, sixth in the Hell of the North last year, said. "It’s a major challenge and these kinds of races are my favourites. It’s a Classic I’d love to have in my palmares.”

Ultra-veteran Valverde, meanwhile, repeatedly insisted that 2022 will be his final year, although the former World Champion said he was as yet uncertain what his last race of the season would be.

“There’s no need for me to go on, it’s the end of a cycle,” Valverde said. “The principle goals for this season are to stay healthy and not get injured.”

Referring to the restrictions banning fans from road-side support because of the pandemic, he added, “It would be a pity if I had to leave this sport without the fans being there.”

While Valverde will turn 42 on the day of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, with taking a fifth title there of his big targets for 2022. He will return to the Giro d’Italia for the first time since 2016 prior to heading to the Vuelta. Long standing team manager Eusebio Unzue said the bulk of Valverde’s swan-song season will take place on home roads.

“Hopefully he’ll enjoy himself and if he gets us a nice stage win somewhere along the way, so much the better,” Unzue said. “But our main GC focus in the Giro will be with [new signing] Ivan Sosa.”

Movistar also confirmed that they would be producing a third edition of their very popular, fly-on-the-wall documentary series, El Día Menos Pensado, to look back at the 2021 season.

Much of their success in the 2021 Vuelta was overshadowed by the dramatic exit of Miguel Ángel López close to the finish in Santiago de Compostela. How that particular question is handled in its documentary will likely spark widespread interest.

The men’s team at Movistar will start their 2022 road season at the Challenge de Mallorca on Wednesday, January 26, while the women’s team kicks off their year at the Vuelta CV Féminas on February 6.

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.