Enric Mas challenges Roglic

Only the red jersey resisted the attack in Velefique of the Spanish, who is 28 seconds behind in the general. Caruso won the stage and his partner Landa sank.


Mikel Landa is not at all. And Enric Mas is out of it. The coin of Spanish cycling 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 for the podium and, incidentally, issued 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 career.

"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 passes, among them the two highest of this edition: the Collado Venta Luisa, a 29-kilometer gate with an average gradient of 4.4%, which rose to 1,970 meters of altitude, and the Velefique , 13.2 km to 6.4% that welcomed the finish line at the level of 1,800. A day to punish the legs, to propose strategies, to challenge the leader ...

Damiano Caruso kept his word and 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 1:42. The Basque had shown signs of weakness in other stages, but it was still necessary to see him on a great long distance run, 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 election: Landa stayed off the hook on the first ramps of the Velefique to definitively say goodbye to the general

The chevrons changed jackets in the Bahrain. And now it will be Jack Haig who challenges the main contenders for La Vuelta, who wear the colors of three other teams. Del Movistar, who lost a second rider, Johan Jakobs, after the loss of Alejandro Valverde, but is still up with Superman López, solvent in the toughest ascents, and with Enric Mas, braver and more convincing than on other occasions. Del Ineos, who this Sunday toughened the race at Venta Luisa and then opened hostilities in the last port with two attacks on the initial slopes by Adam Yates that Primoz Roglic had to close in first person. And, of course, the 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 arising on the final climb.

After Yates' volleys, which apparently put his colleague Egan Bernal in more trouble than his rivals, it was Enric Mas who struck 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 should be remembered, if only to inflame hope, that Enric Mas is a long-distance runner who grows as the days go by, while the Slovenian tends to weaken in the last few days. Here is the data ... And the challenge for the rest of La Vuelta.

Photos from as.com
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