José Joaquín Rojas battled until the very end for a top place in the 95th Ronde van Vlaanderen, one of the five monuments of the cycling season, ridden in Belgian turf on Sunday over a 256km route that once again gathered thousands of people on the roads to attend one of the biggest events of the year.
The Spaniard from Movistar Team was the main option by the squad directed on Flemish soil by Yvon Ledanois –Fran Ventoso did not find his best legs-, and rode for more than five hours on top of the main field, where he suffered a crash that ruined his chances in the finale. The climb to the Kapelmuur, just over 15k from the finishing line, was decisive for another year and broke the selected 40-rider group still in the lead. Rojas could not bridge it within the twelve riders that ran for the victory, but could still snatch a good 18th place in the first pursuing bunch, just over a minute behind.
“I’m happy, I really enjoyed it,” commented Rojas after his participation in De Ronde. “I could have done it better, but there was a crash in the descent between the Kwaremont and the Koppenberg -80k from the finish- and I went down too. I lost much time and went for more than twenty kilometers on pursuit. I could barely ear for the final hundred kilometers and I caught myself really short of fuel in the decisive part of the race. But I’ll stick to the positive side because it’s so hard to fight for a race like this, which top-level riders prepare for months. In my case, this is the first race of the season I do over the cobbles, and that takes a lot. Still, as I stated, I have enjoyed a lot on it. No doubt this is my favourite race, and I hope to evolve year by year. Paris-Roubaix? Luck is even more important there, with crashes and mechanicals. Last year I was on the front there and had to give up because I broke my two bikes. It’s obvious you can’t contest the victory with such good riders, but I’ll go there with so much willingness to get as much forward as possible.”