Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) won the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España on Saturday and in the process, moved into second place overall.
Mas displayed an aggressive and bold performance on the shortest mountain stage of the race this century, from Andorra Escaldes-Engordany to Coll de la Gallina, which put on the table an insanely hard course numbering no less than six classified climbs, all crammed in the space of just 97 kilometres.
Fourth at the start of the stage, Mas overturned the deficit he had on both Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) after attacking on Coll de la Comella together with race leader Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) from a drastically reduced peloton, bridging on the descent to the front duo and immediately opening a 40-second on the chasing group.
On the grueling Coll de la Gallina, an ascent averaging 8.1%, Mas and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) danced clear of their companions, establishing a hefty gap and moving themselves onto the virtual overall podium.
By the time they rode under the red kite, it became clear the two of them would contest the win, and in the end it was Mas who prevailed, after accelerating before the final corner and fend off the challenge of his Colombian opponent.
“I watched last week the video of the 2012 stage that concluded atop Gallina, so I knew I had to be at the front before the last bend and that’s why I kept the speed high and accelerated 150 metres from the line,” said Mas. “Taking my first Grand Tour stage win is something beautiful which I will always remember.”
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be in the top three, but at the moment I still don’t want to think about this, because there’s still one day to go and only in Madrid I will truly savour this achievement. It’s the first time that I am in this position and hopefully it won’t be the last time.
“After the penultimate weekend, I began thinking I could finish in the top five or even on the podium, and helped by a great Quick-Step Floors team, I took it day by day and continued to rise in the GC, culminating with this beautiful result, for which I worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices, that today paid off”, said Mas, the first rider from the Balearic Islands in over four decades to claim a stage win at the Vuelta a España.