By Hernan Alvarez
Colombian riders have always been distinguished in the international peloton for their ability and skills in the big mountains. None of them were able to repeat what Lucho Herrera did in the 1985 Tour de France when he won two mountainous stages until Mauricio Soler appeared this year and prevailed on the mythical Col du Galibier while in his first Tour de France.
On a sunny July day in the Alps, Mauricio Soler did the impossible he won the Alpine stage nine to Briançon when nobody thought he could do it. The rider born in Ramiriqui surprised the world when he "attacked like loco" and stormed to his first Tour de France stage win. The victory also paved the way for him taking – and winning – the maillot blanc à pois rouges of best climber.
12 days after his stage win, he was able to get the mountain jersey and wear it on the final day in Paris. One month later, he managed to win five-stage-long Vuelta a Burgos in Spain proving his consistency following the French Grand Tour. He took stage two of Burgos along with the overall maillot, which he held through the final stage.
However, Soler's 2007 season wasn't all magic, and it ended with some health problems. After crashing in the Coppa Agostoni, Soler was afraid he had broken his elbow. But the injury turned out to be just a bruise. While the pain from the elbow lessened, it became clear that his wrist was more seriously injured than he had known, and he ended up having surgery on it to repair some torn cartilage. Finally, he had another surgery on his nose. Cyclingnews caught up with him in the days after the second operation.
Foremost in the mind of the promising Colombian was his health. "I am a bit better," explained Soler. He spoke with some difficulty as his nose was not completely recovered. "Today [October 27], they took out the stoppers I had in my nose and it seemed everything went alright. I am trying to recover; I already feel better today. Maybe in three days I hope to be almost completely recovered."
The 24 year-old attended the 2008 Tour de France unveiling in Paris on October 25. After this year's performance he will no longer be considered just an ordinary rider in the most important race in the world. "In Paris it [the presentation] was something very nice, something very different, very particular, very pleasant," Soler commented.
The 2008 Tour de France may be a great chance for him to shine again on French soil, considering it was designed especially favourable for climbers. "It is a different Tour from the others, especially if you compare it with this year's. It will be a Tour with no [time] bonuses. The time trial [the first one] will be a bit shorter and it [the parcours] will have very tough mountain stages. This will mean a lot for us, the climbers. I think it will be an advantage for us," said Soler knowing the conditions will suit the mountain specialists.
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