With a raft of Grand Tour leaders leaving Movistar at the end of the year, all eyes will be on Enric Mas as the young Spaniard attempts to fill the void but, according to team director Max Sciandri, he will be given time to develop and find his feet.
Mas, 24, moves to the Spanish team after three years under Patrick Lefevere’s tutelage at QuickStep but, with Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Richard Carapaz part of the exodus, Mas will have to shoulder a significant amount of responsibility when it comes to stage racing.
At a recent training camp in Spain, the new recruit made a faultless first impression, according to Sciandri.
"He’s young but has a huge amount of talent. We had a short training camp a few weeks ago and that was actually the first time that I met him. His programme still isn’t settled but he’ll obviously take on a Grand Tour and this team does have a focus on the Tour de France. I can’t confirm that right now and we still have another camp coming up where everything will be finalized," Sciandri told Cyclingnews.
"We’ve been really impressed with him so far. We've got a lot of young kids on the team now and he was at the camp and speaking English with them so he’s clearly making an effort to mix and get to know people."
Mas’ best result in a Grand Tour came at the 2018 Vuelta a España, where he finished second overall behind Simon Yates. His 2019 campaign failed to reach those heights, although he was a consistent performer throughout much of the year, with several top-10 rides.
Sciandri believes Mas will be given time to rediscover his best form, and that trying to replicate everything Quintana, Landa and Carapaz managed during their time in Spain will take time and patience from all those involved.
"He’s a long-term project for us. It’s not about him coming in and filling anyone’s shoes. He’s at the team to be Enric Mas and to have his own run at things. The Quintana era has ended, Landa never really kicked off, and he’s not really here to be a substitute for Valverde," Sciandri said.
"Obviously Movistar wanted a big Spanish name and he’s up and coming. We’ve good experience in winning Grand Tours, and that’s something that can really help him. I think he’s made a great choice in coming here. I don’t think there’s more pressure on Enric either. Valverde will take some of the pressure in races like the Ardennes. Maybe Paris-Nice is a race where Enric might try and show himself. I think he can cope with what’s coming up. He just has to slowly show who he is and what his capabilities are."
Watch Mas ride to second overall at the 2018 Vuelta
As a team, Movistar head into the new season with almost half their roster changing. This winter sees 13 departures and 12 new arrivals as the squad undertake a major overhaul. Most of the new recruits are young too, while Dario Cataldo and Davide Villella have been brought in to add some much needed experience.
Sciandri, who worked with a number of U23 talents during his time at the British Cycling Academy, believes that the new generation of riders will be brought on slowly as they find their feet at WorldTour.
"We’ve signed 12 new riders and 10 of them are young. We had these kids running around at the training camp and for sure it’s going to be a transition for us but you just need one rider to win some races and it helps things tick along," he said.
"It’s important for us to set goals for these young riders but also support them. That means letting them recover and rest up at times. You want them to have different phases during the year."