At the end of the 1950s, Salvador Botella was the third largest in the Spanish squad, somewhat obscured by the Loroño-Bahamontes rivalry. In winter he used to train on the same route, along the road from Benifaió to Almansa. One day he noticed that another cyclist was following him at a discreet distance. He squeezed, and the pursuer kept at a distance. The matter was repeated several times until one day he stopped and questioned him.
It turned out to be Angelino Soler, an amateur runner from Alcàsser (Valencia), who wanted to test himself by seeing if he was able to follow the idol. Given such a good disposition, he recommended him for the fans section that he was going to create his team, Faema, for the Tour of the Pyrenees.
This is how the cycling race of the man who 60 years ago would shake the foundations of our cycling was promoted by winning, with only 21, the Vuelta a España, before the consecrated Spanish peloton plus the fearsome Belgian team Groewe, “the green devils”, with the prestigious De Mulder and Messelis, the French Mahé and Dotto, the Portuguese Barbosa and the Italian Sabaddin,
By then he had already covered his amateur stage and as a professional the Vuelta a Andalucía of that year, 1961, had scored a success, which he ran thanks to a leave in the military. He went to the Vuelta with a new permit (then he would have to return them, graduating three months after his fifth) and as a gregarious. El Faema had three applicants, Suárez, Botella and Gómez del Moral. Other teams included Loroño, Pérez Francés, Manzaneque, Karmany, Julio Jiménez… Only Bahamontes was missing.
The Vuelta started in San Sebastián, crossed to Catalonia, went down the Mediterranean to Bendidorm, then turned towards Madrid and went up through Castilla to finish in Bilbao. So much north is explained because the organizer was The Spanish Post-The Basque People.
The Benidorm thing deserves a stop. That year was the legendary Vespa trip of the visionary mayor of Benidorm, Pedro Zaragoza, to Madrid, where he managed to meet Franco and get him to authorize the bikinis, the founding episode of the boom immediate tourist center with an epicenter in Benidorm. In his eagerness to make his city sound, he managed to include it in the Vuelta.
In the sixth stage, Tortosa-Valencia, there was a jerrycan getaway of nine men that would prove decisive. The goal was in an improvised velodrome in Mestalla, full to bursting, and there the novel Angelino Soler won the sprint before the euphoria of an entire stadium on its feet. Unforgettable. They arrived with a nine-minute lead, 10 for Soler for the bonus. He jumped from 30th to 3rd. He was not short of criticism because one of the Belgians, Seynaeve, was the leader, and it seemed that it would be difficult to remove him from there. Soler had thrown more than anyone in the break, more than anyone. He had expended forces, it was said, for the benefit of a Belgian. Others were of the opinion that Seynaeve, a cyclocross specialist, would fall like ripe fruit.
Indeed, in Madrid-Valladolid, the jersey passed to his compatriot Messelis. That day Soler, without the help of his teammates, lost two places. But the next day he got them back in the Valladolid-Palencia time trial. And third would reach the northern mountains, with several phaemas well placed thinking of everything but him.
In the queen stage, Santander-Vitoria, an unusual event occurred: the collaboration between all the Spanish teams, generally at odds. They took down Messelis, who narrowly saved the lead. Angelino Soler was one of those who worked the most. That night the director of Faema, Bernardo Ruiz, told him that he had made a mistake, apologized and told him that the next night, Vitoria-Bilbao, they would work for him. That’s how it went. Faema en bloc worked for the benefit of Angelino Soler, who was up to the task. Messelis collapsed.
So he already ran as the leader the last stage, Bilbao-Bilbao, which started with a scare: a montonera in which he injured his nose and it was difficult for him to recover his bicycle, slipped under a truck. But everything passed, calm returned and he won the race with 51s over Mahé and 2m23s over Pérez Francés. Tenth was Jesús Loroño, at 7m47s. He beat all of them and a few more for the 10 minutes achieved at the Mestalla velodrome… and for his way of defending them alone.
At the time it was sensational for someone to win the Vuelta at the age of 21. His condition as a complete cyclist was valued, a great future was predicted for him. Unfortunately it was not like that. Some untimely fall, some untimely illness, the signing by an Italian team, in which he did not adapt. The Giro mountain and four stages plus a sixth place on the Tour were the best he did after that great start. Married at the age of 25, he left him at 28, the age at which most of them reached their prime, to go about his business.
He went through cycling like a meteor. El Meteoro de Alcàsser, as they nicknamed him after his brilliant victory at Mestalla.
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