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Marc Soler, the Spanish climber who moved across to UAE Team Emirates from Movistar for 2022, gives Pogačar an extra wheel deep in the mountains.
Not that the Slovenian star needs it, but Soler will add a new dimension to the ever more powerful UAE Team Emirates backbench to support Pogačar across the grand tours.
“He’s very strong, he’s very solid, and you can see that I am happy to help him any way I can and with everything we’re achieving so far,” Soler told VeloNews. “I am very happy to be on this team.
“Everything is going well right now. I have to keep working hard to be able to stay close to him and be ready whenever he might need some help.”
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- Soler: ‘It was easy to make the change’
Soler was lighting up the roads at Tirreno-Adriatico, riding hard at the front in what’s a preview of what the peloton will see in the grand tours this summer.
Coming off Pogačar’s second straight yellow jersey in 2021, UAE Team Emirates beefed up its frontline defenses — or more accurately, offenses — during the off-season, and signed new talent across the ever-burgeoning team. In addition to Soler, João Almeida, and George Bennett are among eight new signings for 2022.
The 28-year-old Soler joins at an interesting point of his career. Some expected him to emerge as a possible grand tour rider, but he never truly flourished despite winning Paris-Nice in 2018.
Some high-profile blowups — check season 1 of El Día Menos Pensado on Netflix for highlights — and some bad crashes kept him from shining on his own. Riding behind the likes of Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Alejandro Valverde at Movistar didn’t help, either.
Soler says the move came at the right time, and the new challenge is giving him that fresh edge any pro rider needs.
“I’m very happy, very comfortable to be with UAE,” Soler said. “I am here to help the team, and everything’s working well so far, with very good results across the entire team.”
UAE Team Emirates building out its bench of support riders
The way Pogačar is riding everyone off his wheel right now, at first glance it might not appear that he even needs help.
But any top GC captain needs riders who can shepherd him across multi-climb stages and bring him deep into a final. Rafał Majka, Brandon McNulty, Marc Hirschi, and Davide Formolo were all there last year.
Adding a climber with the Soler’s pedigree will only make Pogačar that much harder to isolate and perhaps even attack.
“Right now I am feeling good. We did a training camp with the team, and it appears that everything is going well, let’s hope we can continue on this way,” Soler said. “I’ll be giving the maximum for the team, and bringing my grain of sand.”
Soler isn’t giving up all of his personal ambitions, and even at Tirreno-Adriatico, he tried to attack in the early stages to go for a stage win before settling into a key support role for Pogačar later in the race.
Soler said he will have opportunities in smaller races or perhaps even for a stage here or there, but he knows that with a generational rider like Pogačar, there’s no confusion inside the team bus about who’s the boss.
“I will have my opportunities in one-week races, but during the grand tours it’s obvious that I will be with Tadej, to help him the best I can at both the Tour and the Vuelta,” Soler said. “We’re working to be 100 percent during the grand tours, but I will have my chances in one-week stage races.”
Soler signaled such races as the Volta a Catalunya, which started Monday, and Itzulia Basque Country in April, or even Tour de Suisse, where he might be able to ride for his own GC prospects.
“Then at the Tour and Vuelta, it’s obvious what I have to do, and that’s work for Tadej,” Soler said.
UAE Team Emirates found a diamond in the rough when they plucked Pogačar out of the U23 ranks. The Slovenian blossomed into a WorldTour force faster than anyone could have imagined. Now the rest of the team is catching up.
Rivals know if UAE Team Emirates continue to build out its growing bench of support riders around him, Pogačar will be even harder to beat.