Recent Paris-Nice winner and local favourite Marc Soler (Movistar) saw his own chances of repeating last year’s breakthrough podium finish in the Volta a Catalunya go up in smoke on Thursday as teammate Alejandro Valverde took a commanding victory - but the young Catalan says he has no regrets.
Speaking before the Volta a Catalunya, Soler said that he would sacrifice his own chances if needed for teammates Valverde or Nairo Quintana, and that his ideal race would be "to set things up for Nairo and Alejandro, and then let one of them finish it off."
Soler duly kept his word on the ascent to La Molina, driving away at the head of a rapidly shrinking lead group in what was clearly a previously planned tactic.
"The team did exactly as planned today," Soler said later, "it was all about Valverde and that's how it worked out."
Valverde thanked Soler and other teammates for their work in a post-race interview. "They raced phenomenally well. Marc did brilliantly, but so did the whole team," he said.
When Egan Bernal (Team Sky) attacked, Soler was forced to give way a little. But although stuck in no-mans land between the leaders and the chase group containing GC rivals Simon Yates (Michelton-Scott) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), he tenaciously clung on to his finished sixth on the stage, 53 seconds back, and is now seventh overall.
As the top Catalan racer on the Volta this year, in which he took third overall last year, local media questioned him closely as to whether he had any regrets at sacrificing his own chances. But Soler was adamant that was not the case.
"I was not thinking about the podium or repeating it again," Soler said. "We wanted to make sure that Alejandro was going to be in the perfect position and he was able to finish off our hard work. I’m happy with that."
Soler will go on to race in Paris-Roubaix after the Volta a Catalunya and then will be racing alongside Valverde again in the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège Classics. Once again in the Ardennes, his role will be one of a team helper - with Valverde as the clear leader.