By Andrew Hood
Mauricio Soler is hoping the warm Italian sun will return so he can live up to expectations to try to heat up the 91st Giro d’Italia.
Until things warm up in Italy’s northern mountains, the Colombian climber is discounting his chances at this year’s Giro. Last year’s best climber at the Tour de France hates cold weather and was stricken with a mild case of bronchitis training in the snowbound Italian Dolomites last week.
“I came down with a cold a week ago and I hope it gets warm by the time we get to the mountains,” Soler said. “The biggest difference between the Tour and the Giro is the weather in the mountains. I hope that it won’t be too cold and that there won’t be snow.”
The Barloworld climber said he’s counting on sunny weather to him survive the opening days in the Giro so he can find his climbing legs in time for an assault on the Giro’s climb-laden final week.
The soft-spoken Colombian said he’s not counting on barnstorming through the Giro in the same manner as he rode through last year’s Tour, when he won a stage, finished 11th overall and earned the best climber’s jersey.
“If I feel better, I can aspire toward winning a stage in the mountains,” he said. “The last week of the race is very hard. We’ll see if I can recover my legs. I saw the climbs at Pampeago, Plan de Corones and the Fedaia. They are all very hard. Those will be critical days.”
Soler has a lot of Colombian legacy to live up to. Compatriots have won 14 stages in the Giro and won the best climber’s jersey five times, but none have ever finished among the top three podium.
“My favorite to win is Simoni. His experience and strength will be vital in the final week,” Soler said. “For me, I hope to come out of the Giro stronger and look forward to the Tour.”