Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) continued to climb the Vuelta a España's overall standings after a strong ride on Lagos de Covadonga on stage 15. The Spaniard rider rode beyond his 23 years to hold onto the major favourites and move up two spots into sixth place overall.
Mas has long been a promising talent but he is riding just his second Vuelta a España, and this is his first foray into riding for the general classification in a Grand Tour. He held his own against riders who have almost all visited a Grand Tour podium during their career. The contenders took it in turns to attack each other on the climb with Mas having a go himself as he tried to chase down an attacking Pinot.
In the end, he says that he knew the win was gone when Pinot got a gap. He lost a small bit of ground at the top of Lagos de Covadonga but gained on others, allowing him to vault over Rigoberto Uran and Ion Izagirre in the standings.
"I am really happy. Two years ago, I was watching it on the television and now I was with them. I wasn't able to win but I was up there with them. I was really happy with the way the team worked for me," Mas told reporters as he warmed down on his rollers at the top of the climb. "When Pinot went and I saw that the others didn't go after him, I said to myself 'the stage is gone'."
Mas struggled in some of the opening mountain tests as he fell sick earlier in the race but he is recovering as the race progresses and will now have a chance to rest his body before the final week of action.
"Yesterday I stopped having antibiotics and today I am feeling a little bit better and tomorrow we have a rest day to enjoy," he said.
The final week of the Vuelta a España will start with a lengthy 32-kilometre time trial and closes with two brutal stages in Andorra before the final sprint stage in Madrid on Sunday. Plenty can happen over the coming six stages, but Mas is hopeful that he can take his top-10 position into the Spanish capital.
"I want to enjoy it until Madrid and if I can be top 10 in Madrid then it will be really nice," he said. "I came here to help [Elia] Viviani but we are also trying for the GC and at the moment it is really good but we will see."