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Soler hit by car, in hospital in Colombia

Colombian climbing specialist Mauricio Soler is in a local hospital after he was hit by a car during a training ride Wednesday morning just one block from his home in Ramiriquí, Colombia.

According to media reports in Colombia, Soler was unable to stop in time to avoid colliding with a car head-on as he returned home from a training ride.

“I feel a little bitter,” Soler told Colombian television. “Let’s hope everything turns out the way it should.”

The former best climber at the Tour de France wasn’t seriously injured, but he was transported to a local hospital for observation.

He never lost consciousness, but suffered serious cuts and scrapes and was transported by ambulance wearing a neck brace as a precaution. Officials say he will be at least five days off the bike.

Police took the driver of the car into custody and could face charges of reckless driving.

Soler – who also turned 27 Thursday – has signed a deal to join the Spanish team Caisse d’Epargne for the 2010 season.

Soler is one of cycling’s best contemporary climbers, but has also suffered his fair share of bad luck. After winning the 2007 best climber’s jersey and a stage into Briancon, Soler crashed out of the 2008 Tour.

His Barloworld team was not invited to the Tour last year, but Soler also crashed in the 2009 Giro d’Italia, including one mishap on the stage that caused Mark Cavendish to lose the leader’s jersey.

With a move to the star-studded Caisse d’Epargne, Soler is hopeful he can find the space he needs to regain his confidence.

“I am very happy to arrive at a team as important as Caisse d’Epargne. I hope to be at my best to give back something big to the team,” he said in an interview last month. “I will have no problem working for (Alejandro) Valverde, everyone knows he’s one of the best riders in the world.”

Soler is just one of a few big names to move to Caisse d’Epargne for 2010.

Other new faces include veterans Christophe Moreau and Marzio Bruseghin as well as Spanish bulldog Juanma Cobo.

Soler said being on such a strong and diverse team as Caisse d’Epargne will help take the pressure off him as he tries to rediscover his confidence.

“They were two difficult years, especially for the injuries to my knee and hand,” he said. “I had the pressure and responsibility of the team and it was very complicated to be tranquil. Now, there’s Valverde and many others who can share the load. This will allow me to prepare better and with more tranquility.”

For 2010, Soler said he hopes to be back at his best for the Tour de France and then make his debut at the Vuelta a España.

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