Enric Mas' 2022 season saw both sides of the spectrum. Whilst the Spaniard has taken up his leadership role at Movistar Team and thrived in the latter part of the year, most of his season was horrific with several crashes and injuries leading him into a very bad position.
"It was a disaster. The Tour de France? Best to erase it from my memory because from start to finish it was horrendous," he shared with Cyclingnews. Mas crashed at Tirreno-Adriatico in the finale of the queen stage, abandoning the race. On the queen stage of the Itzulia Basque Country weeks after he crashed again in a difficult descent. As if that was not enough, just before the Tour de France, he crashed once again and had to abandon the Critérium du Dauphiné.
The 27-year old faced an incredibly difficult psychological barrier where he became afraid of the descents. "I started to panic. I was afraid of every bend," Mas refers to some of his moments at the Tour de France. He was not far from his best form there, but the problems and time he lost because of the descents saw him outside of the Top10 when the mountains ended, abandoning the race before the final time-trial due to a Covid-19 infection. By that point, the Tour was almost irrelevant to me. I wanted to finish and I was annoyed not to, but I was already thinking about the Vuelta," he admits.
With no results to show for, several illnesses and injuries, and the Spanish team now at serious risk of relegation, it was a recipe for disaster. "Doubts creep into your head and then take over. Your head tells you you need to brake going into corners that you can just go through at 80km/h. It's hard to explain but when your head tells you you have to do something, you do it," he details.
"The time I was losing became secondary to me. The important thing was my safety, because there were times when I could barely control my bike anymore." Mas was aware he had a problem, ad in the weeks between the Tour and the Vuelta a Espana he focused on improving his descending, training back home in Andorra.
"After the Tour, I switched off for a few days, then I got to work. There was one month between the Tour and Vuelta and it was a month of hard work. The psychologist and the descending expert, and my coach all worked hand in hand and helped me a lot. Andorra is full of mountains and every time you go up, you have to go down. It was about repeating the descents, then stopping and looking at how you rode them, what you did well and what you did badly. Then go back up and do it again," he continued.
"When you lose confidence in yourself, you have to get it back, and a big part of that is technique - how to address the corners, how to distribute your weight. Bit by bit, we turned it around," Mas explained.
He managed to get back his confidence on the bike in the descents and put it to good use later in the year, riding into second place at the Vuelta a Espana and Il Lombardia where he's had to face difficult challenges going down. His win at the Giro dell'Emilia remains perhaps the highlight of his season taking into consideration how he dropped Tadej Pogacar in the final ascent.