Mauricio Soler’s (Movistar) notable climbing prowess makes him a likely candidate to win the overall title at the Tour de San Luis held from January 17-23 in San Luis, Argentina. The Colombian is confident in his ability to win the queen stage six that boasts two significant ascents through the Andres Mountain Range.
“To win this race would be very good for me and for the team,” Soler said. “I don’t know if I have the condition to win it yet. It could be complicated because of the strong winds here but there are a few stages in the mountains and that suits me. Overall, I think this terrain is good for my team.”
Soler is confident that his six-man team is capable of strong overall performances. The squad will start former stage winner Xavier Tondo, Carlos Oyarzun, Javier Iriarte, Pablo Lastras and Francisco Perez. Liquigas-Cannondale will be a likely threat to secure the overall title having won the event last year with Vincenzo Nibali. This year’s team includes two-time Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso. Androni-Giocattoli also has a serious contender in climber José Serpa, who placed second to Nibali last year.
“If I look at all the teams here I think Liquigas is also strong,” Soler said. “Especially with a rider like Ivan Basso.”
The Tour de San Luis will touch the Andes’ foothills on the second stage that finishes atop a five kilometre ascent in Mirador Del Potrero. The true climbing will begin on stage five with a mountaintop finish on the Mirador Del Sol. Stage six will play a major factor in the overall classification with two decisive climbs. The first ascent will take the peloton over Alto de Nogoli at the mid-point of the race and finish on the lengthy and steep climb to La Carolina.
“I know that stage six will be very difficult,” Soler said. “It will be a place for attacks and for the race to open up. If I can stay in the front group and at the front then I think that is the most important thing. I think this will be the stage that suits me the best but I have to wait and see what my condition is like. So far this year I haven’t done many kilometres but I hope that my form is still going to be good.”
Soler believes that the Tour de San Luis is a prime event to start the season because of its warm climate and mountainous terrain. He will use the seven-stage event as an important step of his preparation for the Tour de France in July, where he won the king of the mountains classification in 2007. This year he hopes to trade in the polka-dots for the yellow jersey.
“I want to have a good race here and prepare for the European calendar,” Soler said. “I think this is a very good race for preparation. I want to arrive to the Tour de France in very good condition. In order to prepare, I will compete in a lot of mountain stage races like this. Winning the climber’s jersey at the Tour de France was important but I would like to win the overall. The best opportunity and fortune would be to win the overall. But it is always good to be able to win any jersey.”