CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AFP) — Colombian Juan Mauricio Soler (Movistar) took over the lead at Tour de Suisse by soloing to victory at the end of a 149km race between Lugano and Crans-Montana Sunday.
Soler timed a final attack to perfection during an exciting finale to come over the finish line 12 seconds ahead of Italian Damiano Cunego of Lampre and Luxemburger Frank Schleck, the defending race champion.
The Colombian now leads Cunego by 16 seconds in the overall standings, with Leopard all-rounder Schleck landing in fifth overall a further 15 seconds adrift as the first major selection of the race was made.
From among the pre-race contenders, Andreas Klöden perhaps finished the worst off, the German struggling home with the sprinters’ grupetto to sit 71st overall at 10:46.
Despite being in the throes of relaunching a career that has more downs than ups, Soler is dreaming of being in contention for overall victory.
“This is a really important victory for me,” said the Colombian, whose last major success came on the 2007 Tour de France when he won the polka-dot climber’s jersey.
“I’ve had problems with my health and some injuries, that’s why I’ve not been at the forefront of things lately,” Soler said,” “but hopefully I’m on my way back.
“I’ve done a six-week training block in Colombia and I’m in great form,” he noted. “It’s going to be tough, but I hope to keep the jersey until the finish.”
Beginning in Lugano with Swiss time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara in the yellow jersey, the peloton called a truce for the first of the day’s two major climbs.
They raced tempo for 13km to the summit of the Col de Nufenen, the race’s highest point at 2478 meters, but on the way down Frenchman Lloyd Mondory went on the attack.
The AG2R rider was later joined by time trial specialist Jose Gutierrez, whose move allowed Movistar the luxury of not having to chase, ultimately paying dividends for Soler.
Despite building a maximum five-minute lead, the pair were caught early on the final climb not long after Cancellara began trailing. Eventually, the big Swiss trailed home over 17 minutes off the pace.
Despite brief solo attacks from Belgian Jan Bakelants and Dutchman Pieter Weening, the first significant selection was made by Frank Schleck, who took Cunego, American Levi Leipheimer and several others with him when he accelerated 13km from home.
Cunego, Soler and Leipheimer were alone in following Schleck when he attacked again 10km out, prompting a 12-man lead group to follow.
Further attacks ensued, and despite a 13-man lead group forming in the final five kilometers, a select group composed of Schleck, Danilo Di Luca, Cunego, Soler and Leipheimer were left alone for the finale.
With Schleck and Cunego marking each other, Soler took full advantage by dropping a gear and racing away with just over a kilometer remaining.
“I noticed that Cunego and Schleck were eyeing each other, and that gave me the impetus to go for it,” said Soler, who dedicated his win to teammate Xavier Toldo, who died in a tragic accident weeks ago. “I want to dedicate this win to Xavier, but also to my team who worked a lot for this to happen today.”
The third of nine stages on Monday, a 105km ride from Brig-Glis to Grindelwald, includes a category one and hors categorie climb.
- 1. Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez (COL), Movistar , 4:23:20
- 2. Damiano Cunego (ITA), Lampre-Isd, at 0:12
- 3. Frank Schleck (LUX), Leopard-Trek, at 0:12
- 4. Danilo Di Luca (ITA), Team Katusha, at 0:16
- 5. Bauke Mollema (NED), Rabobank Cycling Team, at 0:18
- 1. Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez (Colombia), Movistar , 4:33:19
- 2. Damiano Cunego (Italy), Lampre-Isd, at 0:16
- 3. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands), Rabobank Cycling Team, at 0:22
- 4. Tejay Van Garderen (United States), HTC-Highroad, at 0:27
- 5. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg), Leopard-Trek, at 0:31