Barloworld riding to protect Soler

By Shane Stokes in Milazzo, Italy Tour de France King of the Mountains Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)...

By Shane Stokes in Milazzo, Italy

Tour de France King of the Mountains Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) came into the Giro d'Italia aiming for a prominent showing, but is instead trying to nurse himself through the early stages.

The Colombian crashed on Stage 2, injuring his hand. His Barloworld team confirmed on Monday that he didn't have a broken wrist – as had been initially feared. Instead Soler has damage to his ligaments which may be eased by using a protective bandage.

Team-mate Geraint Thomas said that the main priority was to take care of their captain. "We just looked after Mauricio all day," he said. "We were riding in the wind quite a lot which I think helped him, because he really struggles in the bunch, especially after yesterday. But obviously it was really hard for us."

They were helped somewhat by a steady pace early on. "It was a pretty easy start which was good, really, because I think everybody had quite sore legs after yesterday," he explained. "They then started racing over the top of the climb – it was quite dodgy in the wet."

The news that Soler doesn't have a fracture will boost morale, although it remains to be seen if the crash will affect his overall prospects in the race. Thomas said that he was in quite a deal of discomfort at times during the stage.

"When we are going over the big pave stones he couldn't hold the bars with that hand," said Tomas. "At the end we were trying to keep him near the front, but a big bunch sprint is not really his thing.

"We had our work cut out today, we are all pretty nailed," he added. "But we succeeded – he didn't lose any more time, so that is the main thing."

Team-mate Enrico Gasparotto was also happy, praising the Colombian's persistence. "Soler showed real courage by finishing the stage and we all admire him," he said. "We tried to help him as much as we could. It's the least we could do for such a brave rider."

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