Mikel Landa is not there at all. And Enric Mas is out of it. The Spanish cycling coin showed heads and tails in the demanding stage of Velefique. The Basque, who had already shown signs of weakness in other days, finally crunched in the first of the last climb. The Spaniard, who had shown signs of strength in the preceding days, slapped his rivals on the podium and, incidentally, launched a serious warning to Primoz Roglic for the next two weeks. But, third at the top of Almeria, just behind the Slovenian, closes the first third of La Vuelta 28 seconds behind the red jersey. There is a race.
“We have two races in the race: one for the general and the other for the escape to seek the stage victory,” said Damiano Caruso at the start of Puerto Lumbreras. Ahead they await 188 kilometers with two ports, including the two highest of this edition: the Collado Venta Luisa, a 29-kilometer-long gate at a 4.4% average slope, which rose to an altitude of 1,970 meters, and el Velefique, 13.2 km at 6.4% that welcomed the goal at the elevation of 1,800. A day to punish the legs, to propose strategies, to challenge the leader …
Damiano Caruso kept his word and he got into the break of the day, an adventure of eleven riders, including Romain Bardet, Rafal Majka and former leader Kenny Elissonde. The Italian from Bahrain, a brilliant 33-year-old cyclist who in 2001 already challenged Egan Bernal in the Giro until the last day. His presence in front could serve as a catapult for his teammates Jack Haig, who started at 57 seconds, or especially for Mikel Landa, who was at 1:42. The Basque had shown signs of weakness in other stages, but it was necessary to see him on a long distance course, where theoretically he drives less. As the kilometers passed, the ‘double race’ that Caruso anticipated became only one, in the fight for the stage, which he managed to conquer. Subsequent events were to prove him right in this choice: Landa stayed off the hook on the first ramps del Velefique to say goodbye to the general
The chevrons changed jackets in the Bahrain. And now it will be Jack Haig who challenges the main aspiring The return, who wear the colors of three other teams. Of the Movistar, who lost a second runner, Johan jakobs, after the discharge from Alejandro Valverde, but keep up with Superman Lopez, solvent in the toughest ascents, and with Enric Mas, braver and more convincing than on other occasions. Of the Ineos, which this Sunday greatly hardened the race in For sale Luisa and then opened hostilities in the last port with two attacks on the initial slopes of Adam Yates that he had to close in the first person Primoz Roglic. And, of course, from Jumbo-Visma, which does not show as much strength as a team, but maintains the type with a very decisive leader, who was enough by himself to put out the fires that were raised in the final climb.
After Yates’ volleys, which apparently put his colleague Egan Bernal than rivals, it was Enric Mas who hit the most accurate blow. Only Roglic, with great difficulty, could hold out with the Spaniard. The two rose to the head. The Slovenian, to consolidate his red jersey. The Spanish, to distance other opponents for the podium like Bernal himself and to preserve, why not, his options to assault the leadership. If we write about sensations, Mas appeared in the Alto de Velefique to be even a little point above Roglic. The Spaniard is 28 seconds away with two weeks of racing left. And it is worth remembering, if only to inflame hope, that Enric Mas is a long-distance runner that grows with the passing of the days, while the Slovenian tends to weaken in the last days. There is the data … And the challenge for the rest of La Vuelta.
Gandía – Balcony of Alicante
Fri. August 20
Santa Pola – La Manga del Mar Menor
Puerto-Lumbreras – Alto de Velefique
Roquetas de Mar – Rincon de la Victoria
Antequera – Valdepeñas de Jaén
Wed. August 25