Route du Sud (st. 4)
Catalan climber from Movistar Team claims first victory within pros at Pyrenees during Route du Sud's Queen stage, following splendid job alongside team-mates in favor of Nairo Quintana; Colombian remains on top of the GC, Marc in 2nd with just one day to go
The Movistar Team dominated the Queen stage of the 40th Route du Sud, the hardest and penultimate route in this year's Pyrenean course over 184km including the grueling climbs of the Col du Tourmalet (Cat-1), the Col des Bordères (Cat-2) and the finish atop Couraduque (Cat-1). Weather contributed to make it even more demanding, with dangerous rain into some descent sections and even some snowflakes since the peloton, always pulled by the Chente García Acosta-led squad, reached the La Mongie ski resort en route to the Tour's biggest legend.
Moreno, Sutherland, Erviti, Dayer Quintana and an outstanding Herrada and Rojas -the latter was part of the 15-rider breakaway which led most of the stage- kept a calm, steady, convincing pace into all stretches. Marc Soler, who was joining ‘Rojillas’ into the break, let his companion go in Bordères and joined a 20-rider elite peloton with three other team-mates. The Catalan made an impressive job on the run-in towards the final climb and through its slopes, letting only three riders follow the wheel of Nairo Quintana: Nicolas Edet (COF), Hugh Carthy (CJR) and Thomas Voeckler (DEN).
Two kilometers from the finishing line, and boosted by his good legs and motivation, Soler -to turn 23 in November; winner of the 2015 Tour de l'Avenir- launched an attack which Carthy tried to follow desperately as Marc's gap grew to almost twenty seconds under the red kite of the final kilometer. The Briton was ultimately beaten by Nairo over the line, the Movistar Team's closing a wonderful one-two finish for the Blues with Marc claiming his first pro win (24 for the Movistar Team this season, 25 including Ion Izagirre's in the Tour de Suisse; ten different riders with victories).
Nairo remains in the lead, with Marc now in 2nd place at 36” and looking certain to wrap up nicely another unforgettable stagerace for the telephone squad. Sunday's closing stage is an eight-lap circuit in and around Clermont-Pouyguillès, 154km including eight climbs of the Côte de Moncassin (Cat-3).
Marc Soler: “I'm really happy with how things have evolved and even more with claiming my first win against the pros in such a beautiful way, after a huge day from the whole squad. We followed Chente's instructions practically until the very end, and it all turned out well at the finish. This victory goes to my palmarès, but the whole team worked their hearts out to ensure that we fulfilled the goals. Back in Dauphiné I was feeling like the whole from the past few weeks had been correct, but the wear and tear of the race was a bit too much for me – I really found better legs this weekend at the Route du Sud.
"As I kept the wheel of the front group, we also played sort of a further control into the race situation, with our guys pulling from behind. However, at Bordères I chose to wait for my team-mates and help pick up the pace into the final slopes, but once we got into the final climb, I was keeping good legs, no one was trying it, and with 2km to go, I said to Nairo: 'Should I attack?' He just told me: 'Go for it.' I launched that attack, I opened a gap and I could keep until the finish! I had to suffer so much, but that makes it more worth. Both Nairo and the whole squad have helped me a lot, and I thank them for this win."
Nairo Quintana: "Our race today was textbook stuff, just like we had planned it in the morning; things went just like we wanted to. Our idea into the Couraduque climb was trying a move by myself and seeking for that stage win, but once we saw Marc was doing that really well, at some point he told me if he could go forward, and I said to him it was good to attack. It's good to share these moments of joy and excitement with the guys; they all deserve to feel like a winner, even if it's only for one day. They work so hard throughout the season so riders like me can enjoy success, and these wins make them grow, especially the youngsters who are coming behind us. My legs felt well; there wasn't any need to make further efforts and the day went perfectly. Let's just hope for a calm stage tomorrow, as it always worries one when you've got to face a circuit race, with the road furniture, the stress… I just can't wait to celebrate with the guys."
Picture ©: La Route du Sud