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BILBAO, Spain (VN) — Marc Soler ended a Spanish winless streak at the Vuelta a España dating back two years with an emphatic victory Wednesday to fend off a chase group that included Lawson Craddock and new leader Rudy Molard.
Soler dug deep to hold off Craddock, who finished fifth, to win Spain’s first Vuelta stage since Ion Izagirre won stage 6 of the 2020 Vuelta.
“I suffered a lot, and they were encouraging me from the car,” said Soler, who broke down in tears following his nail-biting breakaway win. “I couldn’t believe it until the last 500 meters, and then I just enjoyed the moment.”
The victory is also Soler’s first since leaving Team Movistar for UAE Team Emirates at the start of 2021.
Soler left the Spanish team following a few controversial moments, including a tantrum during the 2018 Vuelta when the team ordered him to sit up from what looked to be a stage win in order to help Nairo Quintana.
“I have nothing but thanks for Movistar, because they helped me grow into the rider I am today,” Soler said. “The move to UAE offered new motivation and new challenges. I am glad I could pay them back for the confidence.”
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His move to UAE offered him a role to help Tadej Pogačar in the Tour de France as well as to have chances to race to win at other races.
Soler, 28, was once hailed as a possible future grand tour rider, but he’s stalled since winning the 2018 Paris-Nice. The combative Soler has since emerged into an elite helper and the expert stage-hunter.
Spanish stage drought dates to 2019 Giro and 2018 Tour
Soler astutely rode into the big group Wednesday, and knew that the stage win was up for grabs. He dropped his fellow escapees with about 1km to go on the final climb, and carved out a narrow lead that he held all the way onto the urban streets of Bilbao.
With the city in the throes of its annual summer fiestas, Soler hit the red kite with about 10 seconds on the chasing group.
“I won in my style, attacking over the final climb and making it to the line,” he said. “They animated me from the roadside, and that was incredible.”
Marc Soler wins stage 5 of @lavuelta in Bilbao and ends the 2-year long drought for Spain in Grand Tours! 👏🇪🇸 This was such a great thriller. GRANDE MARC, CON DOS COJONES! #LaVuelta22 pic.twitter.com/2hIWLHlJzl
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) August 24, 2022
Soler finished just four seconds ahead of the Craddock chasing group, with Daryl Impey (Israel Premier Tech) in second and Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) in third.
The victory was also Spain’s first stage win in any grand tour since Izagirre in the 2020 Vuelta.
No Spanish rider won a stage at the Giro d’Italia since Pello Bilbao won two stages in the 2019 edition, or in the Tour de France since Omar Fraile won a stage in 2018.
“Matxin [UAE sport director] told me to try on the climb. In the finale, I wanted to try and I gave it my all,” he said. “There’s a lot of talks [about the lack of Spanish victories in grand tours] but it’s not easy. There are many Spanish riders in many teams but we often have to work. It’s not easy but we can also win.”