«Maybe I’ll get blown out, but I’m going to go all out every day»07/11/2023
Lluís Mas is one of those veterans’ riders who have been battling every day for years on roads all over the world. The last five years he has done so in the only Spanish team in the UCI World Tour category, Movistar Team.
The rider from the Balearic Islands has taken the start of seven grand tours since he did it for the first time in La Vuelta 2014. Next November the 14th, he will make his debut in the NEOM Titan Desert Saudi Arabia.
A feat that seemed unthinkable until very recently, as Mas himself acknowledges: “In recent years, with the irruption of cyclocross and gravel, professional teams are giving more and more freedom, but before it was very difficult to get off the road bike. A flexibility that the Movistar Team rider will take advantage of on November the 14th, the day the Saudi adventure begins.
The public knows you as a road cyclist. Do you usually go mountain biking?
For several years now, every winter day I can, I try to go mountain biking. Mainly because it’s a way for me to mentally disconnect. Yes, I’m training and I’m on the bike, but I’m not on the road. It’s a time of year when I’m still training, but a little bit more like I want to train.
You finish your season, you hang up your bike, you have those 15 days of vacation and then you start again. So those five hours a day that you have to be on the bike again, you can do them on a mountain bike and for me they are fun. They are not the monotony of training on the same roads and the same old mountain passes.
And how did you get to know the NEOM Titan Desert Saudi Arabia?
It’s a race I’ve known about for a long time, especially the one you organize in Morocco. In recent years I would have liked to participate, but it was more complicated because of the team’s restrictions.
It’s true that, since a couple of years ago, in the professional peloton there is more freedom, with the irruption of cyclocross or gravel. So I asked for permission to do mountain bike races.
I had known the Titan Desert for many years and one day I met Manu Tajada ( the race’s sport director), who was preparing last year’s Arabian race. I was curious and here we are now.
Has the new wave of world-class cyclists who are doing more and more cycling disciplines helped you?
The mentality is changing a lot. There were teams that didn’t think you could get off the road bike. But mountain biking helps you in so many ways. On road cycling, for example, you’re never going to develop the skills that mountain bikers have.
For me, personally, being able to do this kind of training in winter is a pleasure. I go out very motivated to training sessions and to races like the Titan Desert. It gives me the motivation to compete and not have three months of just training. It’s an incentive to start strong.
What have you been able to research so far about the NEOM Titan Desert Saudi Arabia?
Well, I’ve already taken a look at the website and Instagram account for information and route. It looks very good. It’s not of big climbs, but that also motivates me because I come from the break and it’s a way to restart more smoothly. Even so, those small hills can make it a very nice race.
This year we will have Luis León Sánchez and Haimar Zubeldia, among others. Will there be competition among the World Tour riders?
I have to pay back ‘Luisle’ for some of the crap he did to me (laughs). We were team-mates in Caja Rural and he was already pushing me to the limit in training. ‘Luisle’ is amazing. He doesn’t rest even when he’s on vacation. We’re going to have a good time and I’m sure there will be a little bit of competition.
It’s your debut in the race, what’s your objective?
I’m going to have a good time and to be with my teammates enjoying myself. It’s true that when I go to a race it’s to go flat out. Maybe I’ll get blown out, but I’m going to go all out every day. If one day I can hide, then maybe I’ll try to steal a sprint from them (laughs).