The second day of rest arrives and Enric Mas gets up tired in Santander, smell of saltpeter, fresh breeze, the mountain behind him. Thus the Spanish hope arrives at the fantastic week of the Vuelta, like the guest at the wedding banquet who puffs up with greasy and appetizing appetizers for his gluttony and feels that his stomach does not give more of itself when the main dishes arrive, the true delights gastronomic: they are already full and yet, it could be said, they have not started to eat.
This is how the peloton has devoured the first two weeks, of heat and exhaustion, wind in the ports, speed in the exits, which looks at the profiles of what is coming last week, that of the direct way to Santiago through the cornice and the mountains of the Cantabrian Sea, and the forecasts of the weather man, rain and cold, and he trembles and asks himself, with a great dramatic pose, where will we get the strength not to attack, just to survive?
On Wednesday, Lagos; on Thursday, the unpublished and longed-for by the fans Gamoniteiru; on Saturday, the Galician mountains ambush prepared by Óscar Pereiro, and, on Sunday, revelry and Jacobean for the enigma Primoz Roglic, Santiago’s time trial, a feather mattress.
So much has already been -2,500 kilometers, and mountains back and forth in Castilla, in Valencia, in Andalusia, in Extremadura-, and so few differences have sought to create Roglic over Mas -35s separate them in the general as a result of a prologue of seven kilometers that takes 18s, 50% more or less, three bonuses and three sprints on slopes – which is impossible not to remember the 2020 Tour, when the superiority of Roglic and his Jumbo was so plastic that it seemed much more Bigger than the 57s in which he led Tadej Pogacar before the time trial that would culminate in his apotheosis.
And it all turned out to be a trompe l’oeil that disarmed his young compatriot in two kicks. Roglic didn’t do what he wanted, he did what he could. Like everyone else, because, as Bernal says on the rest day, it’s all about the legs. “My back doesn’t hurt, my legs hurt,” recalls the Colombian, the long-awaited cyclist, who still has the Slovenian within shot (at 2m 45s) of an Eganesque (wild) attack in the Lakes, unknown but attractive to him. “If I have legs, I attack; if not, I resist ”.
Roglic did not speak on the Sabbath. It is not known if he has fed his experience with the memory of the Planche des Belles Filles, and has enriched it even more with another memory, that of Claudio Chiappucci fighter in yellow in the Tour of the 90 thanks to an 11-minute escape allowed to which only He was able to dislodge Greg LeMond on the last day, in a time trial, but neither Breukink nor Perico overtook him, and he finished second.
The leader, with 1m 36s over Roglic, is Odd Eiking, a more moderate Chiappucci 30 years later, these are no longer the times of exaggerations, Norway is not Italy, thanks to an 11-minute break even encouraged by Roglic’s Jumbo that falls trying to burst it on the way down to Rincón de la Victoria.
Both events concern the Slovenian and will force him to act. First to remove the vicarious leader from the rankings. Afterwards, so as not to leave everything on trust to the time trial, despite the fact that, being also an Olympic champion of the specialty, he feels much superior.
After digesting so many appetizers and assimilating so many premonitions, before the vision of things to come, a chorus of lamentations and a promise sounds. Egan’s laments for his painful legs are joined by that of Eusebio Unzue for an absence, that of the fallen and already raised Alejandro Valverde.
“Oh, if Alejandro had been there …”, repeats the director of Movistar de Enric Mas. “With Alejandro it would have been another Vuelta, with his ability to accelerate to leave the main group in three or four in the hardest moments of a port, we would have experienced other stages in Velefique or, above all, in Extremadura, in Guadalupe, where the wind facing the wheel made it very comfortable to ride and the Jumbo was so strong that it was impossible to attack them … But if Alejandro had been there … ”
Without Valverde, however, Mas has transformed or, at least, has found the spark, the change of pace, the ability to attack and do damage, not just to follow wheels, which he had never lost, which had not returned. to show since its irruption three years ago. “But it is not so much a recovery like this, whoosh, instantaneous, but the fruit of the experience that has been acquiring these two years with us, in which Tour and Vuelta have doubled,” says Unzue. “And he has already reached the maturity that allows him to act.”
Egan says it without legs, the head works more and it improves more. “With legs, everything is easy, you attack when you want and that’s it, but I’m learning more this Vuelta without legs than in the Giro or the Tour that I won,” says the Colombian. “Without legs you have to think a lot more about each movement to stay. Everything is much more complicated, and when I get on the bus I even laugh at myself because of how bad I have been and how I have been able to overcome it ”.
But, as tired as Egan and the squad, but more introverted than the Colombian who has fun, he does not reach that point of public confession. He resists the attacks of the fans who blame him for excessive parsimony in the Extremadura and Gredos days, and simply promises: “This week we will see the battle that we have waited for and there has not been.”