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Enric Mas: At the moment Evenepoel seems unbeatable at Vuelta a España

LES PRAERESNAVA SPAIN AUGUST 28 Enric Mas Nicolau of Spain and Movistar Team competes while fans cheer during the 77th Tour of Spain 2022 Stage 9 a 1714km stage from Villaviciosa to Les Praeres Nava 743m LaVuelta22 WorldTour on August 28 2022 in Les Praeres Nava Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Enric Mas (Movistar) pushes along the short, steep Les Praeres climb to the stage 9 finish line (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Enric Mas (Movistar) recognised that Vuelta a España leader Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) is currently racing in a different league, but the GC runner-up has promised that if opportunities arise in the remaining two weeks, he will try to counterattack.

Mas lost a sizable 44 seconds to Evenepoel on Les Praeres on Sunday, a stage where Simon Yates won in 2018 before going on to take the race outright. 

However, the man from Mallorca remains in second overall, despite going from 28 seconds down to 1:12 behind Evenepoel, and that top-podium placing already represents a notable return to GC action for the 27-year-old after his exceptionally-difficult Tour de France.

Like his compatriot Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers), fourth overall, Mas said he had gone too deep early on the Les Praeres climb and had paid a price for that later. But even if Evenepoel appears to be holding steady in the lead and giving scant room for manouevre to his rivals for now, Mas argued that further chances to turn the tables may yet arise.

“I went too hard trying to follow Remco and it would have gone better if I had kept going at my own pace,” Mas said, before adding with a smile, “I’ll remember that for next time.

“At the moment he seems to be unbeatable, but this race is three weeks long. Today he was stronger than me, but as I’ve been saying from the first day, I’m racing here day by day.”

Mas repeated that he had no idea if Evenepoel might prove to be vulnerable further down the line, but as he put it, “la Vuelta is very long,” and his greater experience at racing Grand Tours “could be an advantage.”

He also added that he was very pleased to see that two young Spanish racers of the calibre of Rodriguez and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) were still in the GC battle after an intense first week. 

“I’m very pleased for them, it reminds me of when I finished second in 2018,” Mas said.  “It’s good to see that Spanish cycling is growing again.”

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