Spanish champion leads points ranking at French grandtour following 3rd place in Redon’s sprint. Gutiérrez on the break; Intxausti and Amador, struggling but alive
From the blue one of Movistar, to the red-yellow stripes of Spanish champion, and ultimately the green jersey of the points ranking in the Tour de France. José Joaquín Rojas does not stop putting on new clothes in the past two weeks, putting him into cycling’s top elite if he wasn’t making part of that group already. The Spaniard got into the coveted maillot vert of the Grande Boucle after taking 3rd at the finish in Redon, in the third day of the 2011 Tour, coming into a mass sprint where Rojas, the first one to start the sprint, was eventually taken down by winner Tyler Farrar (GRM) and Romain Feillu (VCD).
The Movistar Team rider made his third place into the bunch across the day’s intermediate sprint enough to overtake Hushovd in the ranks and take a jersey only allowed for the chosen ones: “This green jersey is the reward for lots of sacrifice, and I’m really happy to wear it. This was one of the goals, along with taking a stage win, and I’m showing I can get them both.” Rojas analyzed this way the complicated finish on Monday: “It was a dangerous finale, and after the last turn I came a bit behind and had it tough to pass ahead. I took it from long, because I feared I would get boxed in, but I missed some strength when I dropped the chain for some more power as I was overtaking them. I didn’t win, but if I didn’t start sprinting, I wouldn’t have taken the jersey. I’m feeling super strong and will keep trying.” The Spaniard will have another opportunity tomorrow in the demanding finish of Mûr-de-Bretagne (2k, 7%): “I’ll attempt it again tomorrow, though it’s a hard finish and Gilbert seems almost unbeatable, but we’ll fight for it. Taking green into Paris? Why not; if I didn’t think I could do it, I wouldn’t be contesting it. I’ve shown I’m at the level of the best, and will fight for it until the very last day.”
The other protagonist of the day from the telephone squad was Iván Gutiérrez. The former Spanish road champion got into the 5-man break of the day started just after the opening flag, which led the way for 188 kilometers before being caught with 7k from the finish: “We know that these breaks almost never end up well, it’s just like immolating, but it was a day with nervousness with the climb to the Pont de Saint-Nazaire, we were five riders, crashes were expected… and you never know. I was in good position at the start and got myself into it; we kept the cat-and-mousing with the bunch all day, but we know that it’s very hard to get to the finish in this first week. You are spending a hell of a lot energy because it’s a 200k stage, but you get out of the stress of riding into the bunch, braking, then sprinting to gain speed… it’s what you leave for what you take. The time when I’ll see if I had good legs will come at the 2nd week. I’m the veteran into the group this year and have to fulfil the leading roles, but my objective this time is taking a stage victory. I’m sure I’ll have some chances in the breakaway. Let’s see if I can get into the good one.”
The negative sidenote of the day was Beñat Intxausti, struggling again to complete the stage. The Basque climber, still with many troubles in his right elbow after the crash on stage 1, got dropped from the bunch in the climb to Saint-Nazaire, but could make it into the big group alongside the other man injured at Movistar Team’s side, Costa Rican Andrey Amador, who had a better day than Intxausti’s. The inflammation in his left ankle is getting better and the American seems to evolve well from his dislocation, which was about to force him out in his first Tour appearance.