UCI Nations Cup u23
Movistar Team rider claims brilliant win in Europe's most prestigious U23 stagerace after exhibition in Beau Plan climb on Friday, bearing rivals' attacks in Mollard / Croix-de-Fer on Saturday
There couldn't be a better end to Marc Soler's first pro season as the Movistar Team rider confirmed himself as one of the biggest hopefuls in the international under-23 scene by conquering the Tour de l'Avenir, the prestigious eight-day stagerace towards the French Alps, whose 2015 edition included a demanding, opening TT in Tonnerre -where he took 10th place-, three flat stages dominated by breakaways and four stages of big mountains, the latter three witnessing big performances from Soler, who took over the lead on Friday.
After finishing 3rd on Thursday's La Rosière ascent, a sensational climb towards Beau Plan (Cat-1) by the Catalan allrounder saw him surging against all main favourites on day seven, taking 2nd in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne behind escapee Elie Gesbert (FRA) and ammassing a solid, one-minute gap over De Plus (BEL) he tried to keep against a flurry of attacks on Saturday. The showdown, only 93km yet with four rated climbs including the Mollard and Croix-de-Fer, brought an early attack by Sebastián Henao (COL), who reached a 3' gap over Soler's group. However, Marc's tenacity and calmness, with well-timed moves to counter all attacks, brought him back to the front of the race into the Montée des Bottières, where he defended himself perfectly against Australian Jack Haig (2nd overall). A third place over the line was enough for the win.
Soler has become the third Movistar Team rider in its current roster to have won the Tour de l'Avenir overall, behind Nairo Quintana (2010) and Rubén Fernández (2013), taking another step in a brilliant career that has seen him debuting in the WorldTour ranks in 2015 after fantastic performances within the amateurs during the two previous seasons.
Marc Soler: “I'm really happy to have crowned this week and staying strong after such an effort on Friday. The national team was really good all race, with everyone doing a good job at the front of the bunch or into breakaways – they really were an important part of my success. I really suffered today on the final climb to Bottières. At the Croix-de-Fer, I kept calm: Henao only had a minute and a half left of his original gap, around 2'40", and I knew he would be losing energy. I just had to complete the descent and go for it into the last two climbs.
"Dutchman Oomen attacked into the flat before the Lacets de Montvernier, four or five riders made moves afterwards and I had to jump after them into the climb to secure my lead. Haig came from behind, and Mamykin and him kept a furious pace in the finale, which I almost couldn't keep. I only had to follow their wheels, but it was tremendous.
"With days like this, you can't forget everyone who supported you towards the top, starting with Velosprint, CC Mollet and Huesca La Magia clubs as a youth rider, then with Manolo Azcona and Lizarte as under-23 and, obviously, Eusebio and Movistar Team, who gave me a chance to be a pro with them. Also my family, girlfriend and friends, all of the people working hard out of the spotlight so I can enjoy this sport, and all those hours I had to spend on the saddle to reach this victory. I hope we can build on this.
"Now it's time to enjoy the victory and complete the season. As the Worlds' rules are different than in the Nations Cup, I won't be racing the U23 championships, so I'm waiting for Eusebio to decide which races I'll be enjoying the end of this debut year."