Marc Soler cut an increasingly frustrated figure during the last few seasons of his seven-year stint at Movistar, clashing with management as leadership issues best the Spanish squad. At UAE Team Emirates, he will have even less room to chase his own ambitions, but at least he’ll have clarity.
“Everything is clear,” he said during a first interview as a UAE rider on Monday. “There is no need for any debates.”
Soler did not issue any parting jibes at his former employers, preferring to look ahead rather than dwell on any past issues.
“For my part, I left on good terms,” he said. “That’s it, there’s nothing more [to say].
“After seven years in the same place, it starts to cost you. You build relationships but you also need that change to stay motivated. I’m very excited by this move. It’s exactly what I needed to maintain that spark. I have new challenges and new goals, and that gives me a lot of motivation.”
Quite apart from any differences in management style, the newfound clarity is largely down to the simple presence of Tadej Pogačar. The 23-year-old Slovenian has won the past two editions of the Tour, and is a towering figure not just within the squad but the pro peloton as a whole.
Soler, a former winner of Paris-Nice, has been signed as a deluxe domestique to bolster the support network around Pogačar, and will accompany him at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España this year.
“It’s clear what I have to do: help Pogačar as much as possible. The truth is, I’m very excited to work for him. I think I can be a good teammate for him,” he said.
“I first took notice of him at the Vuelta where he finished third . That’s where we really discovered him. Since then he’s been getting better and better and for now he doesn’t appear to have any limits.”
It might be difficult to envisage Soler as an unassuming and unquestioning serviceman, given he once demonstratively threw his arms in the air when ordered to wait for a leader. He does still harbour ambitions of his own, but explained that those opportunities will have to be exploited outside the Grand Tour sphere.
“The motivation never leaves, and you can keep dreaming, but in this team things are clear. With Tadej, there is no discussion who is the leader if he’s at the start. In that sense, there’s no doubt. I’ll try and chip in to help him win that third straight Tour," Soler said.
“For the Grand Tours, things are clear. In the week-long races, there could be more freedom, where I’ll have my opportunities to show what I can do, and try to win.”
Soler will start his 2022 campaign at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in February before riding Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya, and Itzulia Basque Country before taking a break and focusing on the Tour and Vuelta.
“I don’t want to stagnate,” he said of his overall ambitions for his debut season with UAE Team Emirates. “I’m going to demand the maximum of myself in every race. The team always demands that, too. I have to work hard and show my level, and that’s motivating for me.”
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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