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Despite spending the day in an early break, Soler attacked the favourites to win the Route du Sud queen stage; his teammate Quintana marked the rivals and crossed the line in second to retain the lead

Photo: Movistar Team








18.06.2016 @ 19:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marc Soler (Movistar) took his first professional victory in impressive fashion when he soloed to the top of the Col du Curaduque in the Route du Sud queen stage. Despite spending the day in the early break and riding on the front for Nairo Quintana, he had enough left to make a late attack and as Quintana marked the rivals from behind, he held off his chasers to win the stage. Quintana beat Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural) in the sprint for second and so retained the overall lead, with Soler moving into second place.


When the Movistar team signed Marc Soler, it didn’t get much attention and during the first year on the WorldTour, the young Spaniard didn’t get into many headlines. That all changed at the end of the year when he confirmed his huge potential by winning the Tour de l’Avenir.


This year he has again been working for his captains and this was again expected to be his job in this week’s Route du Sud which is the final Tour de France preparation for Nairo Quintana. Today he duly did his job in the queen stage as spent the day in the early break to be ready to support his leader and when the group was caught, he set the pace on the final climb.


However, Soler grabbed an unexpected opportunity to attack in the finale and Quintana was keen to let his teammate win. Covering the attacks from the rivals, the Colombian helped Soler to stay away to claim his first pro win before he beat Hugh Carthy in the sprint for second to make it a 1-2 for Movistar and retain his lead in the overall standings.


After yesterday’s time trial, it was time for the queen stage. The 184.9km brought the riders from Saint-Gaudens to a summit finish in Val d’Azun – Couraduque. The first part was lumpy with two smaller climbs while all the major mountains were gathered in the finale. First the riders tackled the mighty Col du Tourmalet whose top comes at the 123.3km mark. Then they descended to the bottom of the category 2 climb of Col des Borderes. A short descent led to the bottom of the final ascent, the category 1 Col du Couraduque.


Clement Penven (Armee) was the only non-starter when the peloton gathered under a rainy sky. Right from the start, there were lots of attacks but almost immediately 15 riders got clear. After 11km of racing, Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar Team), Marc Soler (Movistar Team), François Bidard (AG2R La Mondiale), Quentin Jauregui (AG2R La Mondiale), Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale), Loïc Chetout (Cofidis), Romain Hardy (Cofidis ), Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), Quentin Pacher (Delko-Marseille-Provence-KTM), Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ), Vegard Breen (Fortunéo - Vital Concept), Arnaud Gerard (Fortunéo - Vital Concept), Alexei Rybalkin (Gazprom- RusVelo), Aitor Gonzalez (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias) and Alexander Aranburu (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias) had a 30-second advantage. Two riders tried to join the move but they failed.


While rain continued to fall, the gap slowly went out to 2.05 after 23km of racing, and it was 3.35 when Coquard beat Chetout and Breen in the first intermediate sprint at the 37km mark. It was a slow start to the stage as only 37.6km were covered during the first hour.


As the rain stopped, the gap continued to grow, and it reached a maximum of 5.35 before the peloton started to chase. When Jauregui beat Rybalkin, Coquard and Gerard in the first KOM sprint at the 62km mark, the peloton crossed the line 4.10 later.


Jauregui attacked and got an advantage of 20 seconds which allowed him to win the second KOM sprint ahead of Rybalkin, Breen, Pacher and Chetout after a second hour at an average speed of 35.8km/h. He waited for the group on the descent before the peloton reached the top, 4.05 behind the leaders.


As rain again started to fall, the gap was kept stable at around four minute and Enrique Sanz (Wilier) becae the first rider to abandon. Unsurprisingly, Movistar had taken control and they reached the feed zone exactly four minutes behind the leaders. Unfortunately, a crash forced Antonio Molina (Caja Rural) to abandon.


After a third hour at an average speed of just 31km/h, the front group hit the mighty Tourmalet with an advantage of 4.10. Pacher launched an attack on the lower slopes and was followed by Jauregui and Soler. However, Chetout dug deep to bring the group back together. Moments later, Rybalkin and Coquard were distanced.


With Imanol Erviti setting the pace for Movistar, the peloton started to split up as lots of rirders got dropped. Meanwhile, the selection continued in the front group where Gonzalez was the next rider to get distanced.


The gap was coming down steadily as Jose Herrada was setting a fast pace for Movistar. Erviti returned to the front to take another turn, reducing the gap to 3.20 as they entered the final 70km. At this point, the group had been whittled down to around 30 riders.


Gerard, Breen, Kadri and Vaugrenard were the next riders to get dropped from the break which was still led by Chetout. However, they were now losing ground quickly as Rory Sutherland had taken over the pace-setting in the peloton. While Kadri managed to rejoin the break, the advantage dropped to 3.05 with 65km to go.


While Jauregui got dropped from the break, Herrada hit the front in the peloton and he did a lot of damage, whittling the group down significantly. With 63km to go, the gap had dropped to less than 2 minutes and he easily neutralized an attack from Daniel Martinez (Wilier).


Chetout worked hard in the break but was unable to prevent Vaugrenard and Jauregui from getting back. From there, Ag2r took over the pace-setting with their three riders and it was Bidard who did most of the work. Chetout was dropped and moments later Kadri and Vaugrenard also lost contact.


With 62km to go, the gap had dropped to 1.15 and Dayer Quintana took over from Herrada who stayed in the group. Further up the road, Hardy did most of the work in the final part of the climb before Jauregui beat Aranburu, Pacher, Bidard, Soler and Rojas in the KOM sprint. The small 12-rider peloton reached the top just 55 seconds later.


Rojas dropped back to the peloton to assist his team on the descent while Kadri managed to rejoin the break. The group was whittled down on the tricky descent and suddenly only Kadri, Bidard, Soler, Aranburu and Pacher were left as Hardy and Jauregui were both left behind. Pacher beat Kadri and Bidrad in the intermediate sprint


The quintet managed to keep an advantage of 30-45 seconds while Rojas paced the peloton safely down the descent. Meanwhile, lots of riders rejoined the group as they returned to dry roads and it was a pretty big peloton that had gathered at the bottom of the final second climb.


Herrada started to ride on the front while Kadri did a massive work in the front group to send both Aranburu and Pacher out the back door. Soler looked comfortable on the wheel of the two Ag2r riders.


With 20km to go, Herrada had reduced the gap to just 10 seconds and lots of riders had been dropped. Soler decided to wait for his teammate and so left it to the two Ag2r riders to press on.


The gap stayed at 10-15 seconds for a while but with 15km to go, Herrada brought the duo back. Near the top Soler took over and he won the KOM sprint ahead of Rojas, Nairo Quintana and Dayer Quintana as Movistar completely controlled affar.


Rain started to fall as they went down the descent and this was difficult for Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) who lost contact on the wet roads. However, he managed to return in time for the final climb and it was exactly 20 riders that started the ascent together.


Soler had done the work on the descent but as they hit the climb Rojas took over. Rossetto, Barikoitz Bravo (Euskadi), Dayer Quintana (Movistar), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Guillaume Levarlet (Auber) were among the many riders to get distanced on the lower slopes.


As Soler took over from Rojas, only Quintana, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Carthy and Thomas Voeckler 8Direct Energie) could follow. Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi) managed to get back as they hit an easier section with 3.7km to go but they were both dropped when the road again got steeper.


Carthy tried to up the pace with 2.2km to go but when he slowed down, Soler made his move. No one responded and as he rode away, Carthy now had to work on the front.


The hesitation in the main group allowed Pardilla to get back and he rode on the front until Carthy made his move just before the flamme rouge. Quintana acted as a loyal teammate and followed the Brit who did his best to get back to Soler. However, it was too late and the Spaniard had plenty of time to celebrate his win before Quintana beat Carthy in the sprint four seconds later. Edet and Voeckler completed the top 5.


The win allowed Soler move into second behind Quintana who leads his teammate by 36 seconds while Carthy is 58 seconds behind in third. The Colombian now just has to get safely through the final stage which a circuit race. The riders cover 8 laps of a 17.6km circuit around the city of Gers-Astarac Arros en Gascogne for an overall distance of 154.8km. It includes an early uncategorized ascent and the small category 4 climb of Cote de Moncassin 4.5km from the finish. Then it’s a downhill run to the line.



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