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.
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.”