Just like in last Monday’s stage in the Vuelta a Andalucía, where Ventoso lost to Frenchman Jonathan Hivert, it was by the narrowest of margins -only a centimeter in this case- how Movistar Team lost a chance to increase their victory account in 2011.
José Joaquín Rojas came in 2nd place at the bunch sprint of the 26th Clásica de Almería, as Italy’s Matteo Pelucchi (GEO) beat the Spaniard from Movistar by merely a handful centimetres. The small gap avoided the team putting a perfect finish to the superb work done all over the race by the group directed by José Luis Arrieta, getting into all breaks right from the start. Rojas and Oyarzun made part of an initial scape of around ten riders, just before Fran Ventoso, still with some pain after his crash on Wednesday, went solo on an attempt at the 70th kilometer, then followed by Cabedo (ORB) and Hoogerland (VAC) to show his considerably good fitness level and win the Intermediate sprints competition.
“We hadn’t planned it to happen that way,” explained Arrieta, “because Rojas and him had to save energy for the finale, but Fran has seen himself strong ahead and, apart from being close to the finish, it was good because we didn’t have to work behind.” The attempt by the escaping three -which saw a countering group of twenty riders including Rojas, Tondo (who got over stomach problems that affected him in the early part of the stage along with Pérez) and Kiryienka- ended with six kilometers from the finish line; JJ Rojas missed just few centimeters to claim his second victory of the season in the milimeter sprint.
The Spaniard, who has come into the best 15 in all his fourteen days of competition in 2011 -except for a stage in the Tour Down Under, where he had a flat tire in the final kilometer-, thus claims his twelfth top-ten placement of the year: “It was a pity, because I went to see the photo-finish and you could barely distinguish who won. With 300 meters to go I was on Freire’s wheel and both had to brake because the rider who was pulling in front of us was getting off the way. I had to turn left and did all my sprint to open air. I was overtaking him and, even though Pelucchi had raised his arms, I was hopeful I had won because I had come really fast. It’s a shame and leaves me on fury, but still I’m feeling phenomenally strong. This is by far my best season start. I feel myself better as a rider and the confidence the team is showing on me is paying off a lot. Today, all my teammates rode superb and we made all the break. Now it’s time to focus on Paris-Nice next week, and then Milano-Sanremo and the classics. If nothing bad happens until that, I will get there really strong, and I really want to know which my place on those top races is.”