Soler rides onto Ruta del Sol podium in final-day time trial
Movistar rider impresses against the clock
Through Alejandro Valverde, Movistar have dominated the Ruta del Sol in recent years, with the Spaniard winning five of the six previous editions of the race. With the 37-year-old skipping the race this season, the door opened for his younger teammate Marc Soler to take up the mantle, and he rose to the challenge via a strong final-day time trial ride to replace teammate Mikel Landa on the final overall podium.
Soler, a former Tour de l'Avenir winner, was sixth on the challenging summit finish at La Guardia de Jaén and was sitting in the same overall position ahead of the final-day time trial.
The 24-year-old hadn't raced against the clock since the 2017 Vuelta a España, and in the 2017 Ruta del Sol time trial he had placed 19th. His fifth place in Sunday's 14-kilometre time trial was an upset of sorts as he also did enough to lift himself into third place overall.
"I'm really happy. This was my first stage race after coming back from the Tour Down Under in Australia, and I'm really satisfied with the result," Soler said.
"I knew I was in good form, really willing to do well, but I'm still a bit surprised that I could beat all of my rivals for the GC podium. I've worked hard to improve on time trials, changing some minor details, and it seems like I'm on the right path. TT's have always suited my conditions; I'm a tall guy with good power for such efforts, even though I'm still lacking some raw technique that I hope to progress on in order to make this a strong part of my abilities."
Soler enjoyed a breakthrough third place overall at the Volta a Catalunya last year behind compatriots Alberto Contador and Valverde. A debut Grand Tour, the Vuelta, then followed later in the year, with Soler finishing in 48th place overall. In 2018, he is aiming to improve on last season's results and performances and had high praise for his Ruta del Sol teammates for helping him to his third career podium result to lay the foundations for a successful year.
"The team did a sensational job all week, with [Carlos] Barbero fighting for sprint victories, Imanol [Erviti], Héctor [Carretero] and Jorge [Arcas] keeping the group well protected, and Landa, Andrey [Amador] and myself trying to be in a good position in the mountain stages," he said.
Like 2017, Soler's next two races are at WorldTour level as he heads first to Paris-Nice and then the Volta Catalunya, with the challenge of matching his podium from 12-months ago.
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