Soler wins Paris-Nice, Contador-style

Soler soars

Most interesting comment in cyclingnews about Marc Soler’s overall victory in Paris-Nice:  “He now every right to be taken as seriously as Mikel Landa, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.”

That’s some serious company for a 24 year old — but that’s what happens when you win a tough, rain-soaked, French stage race with a bold attack ripped straight from the Alberto Contador playbook.

“I was trying to replay a little of what Contador did in Paris-Nice,” he said. “I was a big fan of his and I wanted to ride in his style. I thought that maybe the stage win was possible, but I was thinking more of the podium than of taking the jersey.”

He went full-Pistolero from about 40 kilometers out, working with David De La Cruz (Team Sky) and fellow Spaniard Omar Fraile (Astana). De La Cruz would take the stage while Soler nabbed four bonus seconds for third place and vaulted himself to the top step of the podium.

Further down the road, the expected winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was isolated without teammates and forced to close the gap. He began the day 37 seconds ahead of Soler but would ultimately fall those four crucial, painful seconds short.

“When Marc went on the attack, we still had a long way to go and I still had many rivals to watch,” said Yates. “I can’t watch everybody and I can’t follow everybody, so you have to take a risk sometimes. In the final, I didn’t have the legs to close the gap. But I did the best I could. Today a great rider won.”

That was a classy statement from Yates, who also lost last season’s Tour of Romandie by 21 seconds to Richie Porte (BMC Racing) on the final day time trial around Lausanne. The look on this face as he crossed the finish-line in Nice said all you needed to know about crushing disappointment.

For Soler, this was confirmation of the high expectations people have had for him since his win in the 2015 Tour de L’Avenir. The burden of those Indurain-Contador comparisons would drop plenty on pressure on his shoulders but it certainly didn’t slow him down as he powered up the last climb of the day, the Col des Quatre Chemins.

The baby-faced Soler has heard those comparisons yet he seems able to put them in perspective. “I’ve heard it a few times,” he said after the stage, “but I’m not at their level yet. I’m still learning.”

Now, perhaps, he’ll start hearing a different and expanded set of comparisons as he hits another level in a Movistar squad already stacked with Quintana, Landa and Valverde.

Should Team Sky implode thanks to the assorted crises of Wiggins’ TUE abuse to Froome’s failed test for salbutamol, then the next super team will be Movistar.

That includes Marc Soler, Pistolero junior








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