As Barloworld prepared for the Tour de France the Professional Continental squad, which was granted a wildcard entry by organiser ASO, made noises of taking stage wins, but few thought the first would come from a young Colombian climber named Mauricio Soler. The 24 year-old is delighted with his success on Grand Tour debut, having taken home the polka dot mountains jersey in addition to his stage win.
"I have always been a rather serene rider," the Colombian told letour.fr. "I am a pragmatist and realise that if you do things well, there's no reason that the results won't follow. I came to the Tour without a definite goal but the prestige of the event is something that lures you in and extracts more from you.
"The Tour gave me a desire to exceed my expectations," he added. "My life was not very complicated before I arrived at my first Tour and I should point out that when we arrived in the Alps my condition was good and I was able to take full advantage of that. I had great form and I thought I should test myself to see how far I could go.
The Colombian's 78 point victory over yellow jersey Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) in the mountains classification was momentarily overshadowed when rumours circulated on Friday the rider had tested positive. Both Barloworld and Tour director Christian Prudhomme were quick to counter the allegations, which stemmed from a journalist mis-identifying an Ag2r Prévoyance team car at Barloworld's team hotel as a police car.
With the false allegations quashed, Soler was free to enjoy the closing stages of a spectacular debut Tour, which has seen him re-sign with the British-registered, Italian-based, South African-backed squad for two more season.
"It was a will to win that pushed me further, but also the support of my family," he confessed. "Every day I thought of my family over in Colombia and here I have lived out something that I'll remember for a long time to come."
It wasn't only Soler's family getting behind the youngster, with Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe Velez calling him personally after the Stage 9 victory. GJ