Vuelta al País Vasco (st. 1)
The Spanish champion closes his team’s bad luck streak, takes his first victory of the season and grabs yellow in a race he wasn’t planning to take part
Following an unfortunate start of the season, full of injuries, illnesses and crashes, José Joaquín Rojas broke misfortune into pieces and also finished with the bad streak of his team in the last week at today’s finish in Güeñes. The Spanish road race champion took the stage victory and the provisional leadership in the 52nd Vuelta al País Vasco, over 153 kilometers coming into a close sprint where the Murcian was the strongest, but also the most valiant by riding through an almost unaffordable space close to the barriers to notch up his maiden victory of the year -the seventh in his seven years as pro-, and also the seventh from Movistar Team in the 2012 season. Rojas will not defend his yellow jersey in the 165-kilometer stage two from Güeñes to Vitoria, another rolling trek into a course Rojas wasn’t selected for -his goal was the Ronde van Vlaanderen from last Sunday-, but a last-minute decision from Eusebio Unzué following his hard crash at Gent-Wevelgem in March 25, in order to recover better, make his luck turn the other way around in the best moment for his moral and Movistar Team’s.
José Joaquín Rojas: “I wasn’t expecting to race here because I had suffered a serious crash last week at Gent-Wevelgem. I still have much pain in my back and was really doubtful about taking the start or not. Eventually we decided to come here, especially as a preparation before next week to help Alejandro in the Ardennes, and… see what. When you don’t expect it, you win. When we entered the final straight, I saw a small gap on the right side I could barely pass through. I thought: it’s going past it or crashing. I didn’t care about crashing, because we take so much risks on the road that danger comes from everywhere, but everything turned out well. This victory is the fruit of all work I did during the winter; I’m a rider who needs victories, and when you’re always coming close and victories don’t arrive, doubts grow up even more. After the bad streak in the start of the season, with so many problems, such a victory does really well for my moral. I wasn’t wearing a yellow jersey since the 2007 Vuelta a Murcia; grabbing it in the Basque Country, with some of the best fans in the world, is a real pride. I dedicate this victory to myself, for this bad streak, but also to Eusebio, who always relied on me and gave me much support through this week I was doing so hard, and also to all the team, which always helped me”.
Eusebio Unzué: “Today was the positive side of disgrace: should everything have followed the original story, José Joaquín Rojas would have been riding Flanders, but after the crash at Gent-Wevelgem he was off almost all week and we considered it was better to stay off Flanders and, after that, make a training test on Saturday prior to País Vasco to rule if he should race it or not. He suffered really much throughout the stage, especially when riding over the potholes on the road, but when we got warmer, things went better. He’s the rider taking the most top-10 places during every season, and sometimes he has to get something like this. We had spent three weeks without luck: we entered a phase where illnesses and crashes avoided our leaders in some of those races were fit to contest them. I hope this win will turn things up and set a new streak for us. We came here without our two natural leaders, which should have been Alejandro and Beñat, and taking a stage victory for us is magnificent already, but we’ll see if something better might come by Saturday”.