The boss talks about Eddy Merckx and Enric Mas talks about Alberto Contador. The two talk about the Tour. The team leader, Patrick Lefévère, is Belgian and he was a child who was moved like all Belgian children, and they have the indelible moment in their memory, when Merckx won his first Tour, the one of '69, 50 years ago; He's a Majorcan, he's a climber, like Contador, and he was a 12-year-old boy the day that Contador won his first Tour, 12 years ago too, and what Contador did changed his life, made him become a cyclist, and dreamed of Tour, the only race that is worth dedicating the existence, and until the Tour has arrived Mas, finally, debutante at 24 years.
The years ended in nine must trigger a kind of explosive astral conjunction that leads to exceptional harvests that mark time, as they like the wine growers. The Tour of 19 was the first yellow jersey; that of 39, the last before the war, and the last one won by a Belgian in 30 years, that of 49 was that of the wonder of Coppi and that of 59 the one of Bahamontes; in 69 began the Merckx dictatorship, in 89 LeMond returned after flirting with death, and in 99 began the series of seven, cursed and erased Armstrong.
More debuted in the 2019, already called, before its start, tomorrow, at the Place Royale in Brussels, the most open Tour: the absence by fall of Chris Froome and his four Tours, and doubts about the winner of 18, Geraint Thomas, leaves a dozen favorites matched and none superior. Among them can be Mas, who presents himself in society at a press conference at a Lidl on the outskirts of the Belgian capital and says: "I come to learn, this is very complicated".
Not much less ambiguously was the Balearic climber just a year ago at the beginning of the Vuelta. Then he also added: "I come to see how far I blow," and the same statement is repeated in Brussels. "I'm not going to leave any day to think about the general classification," he says, specifying more in what his learning will consist of. "It would not be bad to finish in the top 10. I arrive, anyway, better than how I got to the Vuelta. "
More spectacularly won in the Vuelta the last great mountain stage and found that he had reached to finish second in the general. "I held right until the last day. I burst out at the farewell dinner, where I started to vomit, "he recalls, and he also remembers that he awoke so many expectations in others and in himself that he did not hesitate to pawn all year 2019 in preparation for his debut tour. In February he spent a few weeks in Antioquia, Colombia, testing for the first time the trainings to more than 2,300m, and in May he went to the height of Sierra de Nevada. In June he competed in the height of the Tour of Switzerland and at the height of the San Gottardo, when he went out to try on the cobbles of the colossal alpine pass, he saw how Egan Bernal, from whom everyone spoke almost as if speaking of the new Merckx. But he preferred to look at the unfathomable ravine on his left before the Colombian from the heights that overtook him and he did not know if it was a motorcycle, a bird, what. "But between that day and the Alps of the Tour there will be a month of difference … It will not be the same," says Mas, who is not afraid that the Tour del 19 includes seven ports above 2,000m (including the huge Iseran, Izoard and Val Thorens, plus the venerable Tourmalet, which will be the final stage, and Galibier, and Vars and Tignes), at the height where breathing is already a problem. "I'm not afraid of height," he says. "You have to go up saving, without spending on repeated attacks."
A dozen names
De Mas does not talk much. His name is not mentioned by specialists who speak of Egan, Thomas, Nairo, Bardet, Fuglsang, Landa, Pinot, Kruijswijk, Urán, Nibali, Porte or Adam Yates, which he does not dislike, on the contrary, as he does not Negative to run the Tour in a Belgian team that only thinks about winning stages with an Italian sprinter, Viviani, and a French hunter, Alaphilippe. "This team will be good for the time trial and for the flat stages," he says. "These are the ones that really bother me. And it will be good to feel so wrapped up, but I can not be confused, huh? "