Movistar’s Enric Mas ready to shine with sole leadership at Tour de France

With Alejandro Valverde retiring and the team's bet on youth, Enric Mas now has his chance to race alone at centerstage.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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Movistar will ditch its “Three Musketeers” tactic, and put everything behind a sole leader for the 2022 Tour de France.

At least that’s what Enric Mas is hoping for this season.

“In the Tour, I’d like to have the entire team for me, and share responsibilities at the Vuelta with Alejandro [Valverde],” Mas said Thursday. “After sharing the leadership before at the Tour, I’d like to have the team around me this year.”

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The Spanish WorldTour team will turn back the page, and build its elite men’s team around one singular rider. That will harken back to the team’s glory days of Miguel Indurain, when the franchise threw everything into supporting one rider.

Over the past decade, however, the team adopted a more open approach to the Tour, oftentimes with mixed results.

Movistar packed such former riders as Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana, Richard Carapaz, and Mikel Landa across different grand tours. In 2015, the team hit a high note, slotting Quintana and Valverde into second and third, respectively, behind Chris Froome.

Later attempts sometimes seemed to go off the rails, but the multi-pronged attack can also produce big results, underscored by Carapaz’s dramatic victory at the 2019 Giro.

Enric Mas emerges as Movistar’s sole leader

Enric Mas sits in the Movistar train at the Vuelta a Espana
Enric Mas sits in the Movistar train at the Vuelta a Espana in 2021. (Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Movistar is betting big on Mas, whom many see as Spain’s best hope for grand tour success, and will give him even more responsibility in 2022.

Already twice second overall in the Vuelta a España, Mas said he feels like he’s ready to take on the duties that come with leading the Tour squad.

“These past few years I’ve shared the leadership, but I believe I am ready for it. I’m 27, so it’s time to take it on alone,” Mas said. “We are going to first focus on the Tour where I will have the team at my disposition. Based on how I am feeling now, I am hopeful things will turn out well.”

In three previous starts at the Tour, Mas has emerged as a rider capable of battling for the podium. He was 22nd in his debut in 2019, and rode to fifth in 2020, and sixth last year.

“The big goal of the season is the Tour,” Mas said during a team presentation Thursday. “This year if I can, I’d like to race more aggressively than I have the past couple of years.”

With Valverde retiring at the end of this season, the veteran Spanish star said he does not want to race the Tour. Instead, he will return to the Giro d’Italia and have the Vuelta as his final farewell to Spanish fans.

“All this season, I want to say thanks to cycling, to my team, to my teammates, and to everyone who’s supported me,” Valverde said. “I want to have good health, a calm season, race with the public. If that happens, I will be happy to retire from this sport that’s given me so much.”

Movistar betting big on youth as Alejandro Valverde retires

Ivan Sosa Ventoux Tour de la Procence
Iván Sosa, shown here at the Tour de la Provence, joins Movistar for 2022. (Photo: James Startt/VeloNews)

Another factor for the big Mas bet? A lack of firepower at the top.

Movistar is recruiting many younger riders, but the controversial exit of Miguel Ángel López during the 2021 Vuelta leaves a big hole in the GC hierarchy. The team is hopeful new riders such Iván Sosa will continue to grow and the Colombian will see freedom at the Giro.

“Iván will give us a lot in the mountains, and he can fight for stages and even some GC in certain races,” said team boss Eusebio Unzué. “At the Giro, we can see what happens in the GC without pressure. We expect he will shine in the big mountains.”

So for 2022, Mas will get his shot at sole leadership at the Tour.

“We are working very hard for the Tour and Vuelta, but before that, I’d like to start off the season in a good way,” Mas said. “I’d like to be on the podium in at least one of the two, and if I win either one of them, I’d sign up for that.”

It’s a big bet and the next major step in any rider’s trajectory. Mas is ready for more.

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