Mauricio Soler may not have won a race for four years before taking the first mountain stage of the Tour de Suisse to Crans-Montana on Sunday but he kept his emotions in check, preferring to dedicate his success to Movistar teammate Xavier Tondo, who died recently in a domestic accident.
"My victory and leadership are dedicated to Xavi Tondo. He's not with us anymore, but he's still in our thoughts. Apart from being an excellent rider, he was a big friend of mine," Soler said in a statement on the Movistar team's official website.
Soler had not won a race since the Vuelta a Burgos in 2007, just a few weeks after he won a stage at the Tour de France and secured overall victory in the climber's competition while riding for the Barloworld team. Since then the quiet but classy Colombian has struggled with injury and crashes, with visa problems also often disrupting his race programme.
"I'm really happy. This is an important win for me because this is a top-ranked race and because I had spent four years without winning a race. I needed it," he said.
"I haven't raced since the Vuelta a Castilla y León because I back to Colombia to train. The start of the season was difficult due to the crashes and physical problems I've had but I'd already done 30 days of racing, and the first two weeks home were important mental and physical recovery time. The last three weeks went well, and I felt good before coming back to Europe."
In the finale of the stage, Soler made sure he was well placed and timed his final attack perfectly. He noticed that Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) were marking each other and took advantage.
"We followed the team orders and we'd planned that, if I had a chance, I'd try before the final kilometre," he said.
"The group had split a lot and I made a first move but the second one was the good one. I knew it was the right moment to go because, if I came to the finish with riders like Di Luca, I wouldn't stand any chance in the sprint. But it all went good. I took the stage win and the leader's jersey."
"This has just started. It will be difficult to keep the yellow jersey, but I have a strong team and we'll try to stay in control on the front."
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