Ex-Spanish champion from Movistar Team victorious in Zamora 774 days later, inherites Castilla y León leader jersey team-mate Plaza earned as 2013 GC winner
23 top-ten finishes with no success in 2013, a scaphoid fracture at the Tour Down Under in the very beginning of this season, a crack in his elbow after a crash in Milano-Sanremo’s neutral zone… all troubles and upsetting experiences for José Joaquín Rojas since he last raised his arms victorious on April 2, 2012, on the opening stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco, went sort of forgotten today on day one of the Vuelta a Castilla y León, over 179 kilometers from Ciudad Rodrigo to Zamora.
The Spanish rider from the Movistar Team, the race’s bib number one, was the fastest into a close bunch sprint against Sergey Shilov (LOK) and Carlos Barbero (EUK), following a hot ride with strong headwinds where the telephone squad led the bunch almost all day together with Caja Rural, controlling the two main breakaway attempts and keeping things cool after a crash halfway through the stage, which split the peloton into two groups for several kilometers.
The work by Lastras, Sütterlin, Visconti or an excellent Dowsett was rewarded by the success from the ex-Spanish champion -his eighth as professional rider- and the 5th place by Enrique Sanz, who rounded off the great performance from the lads directed by José Luis Laguía. Saturday will bring the first of two mountainous stages in the Spanish stagerace, with 179km starting at Zamora and finishing atop the Alto de Lubián (Cat-1). Padornelo (Cat-2) will also be on the race programme.
REACTION | José Joaquín Rojas: “To be honest, I couldn’t believe myself when I realized I had won after so much time. I knew I was doing well recently, but I had spent a lot of time without racing and that takes you some form off you can’t hide. I also did feel quite strange during the race. I wasn’t feeling bad, but not completely well. That’s why I told Dowsett in the finale I wasn’t going to contest the sprint, so he could help Sanz out. But the final kilometer was a bit uphill, and with 800 meters left I saw there were so many tired riders and started overcoming. I still came from behind into the final turn, but I could get back and cross the line first. It was close, but with the last bike throw across the finish I knew I had won, because I was faster than the others.
“Who did I remember when I won? Especially myself, because I had such a bad drought and these last months were complicated. Also my family and my girlfriend, the ones who really support me through any bad moments. The team was phenomenal and it was also thanks to them that I won. We were always there with Caja Rural, pulling against strong headwinds – it didn’t really play any danger for the bunch to split, no crosswinds. Tomorrow we will tackle the first mountains and I must stay conscious about my real chances: though I got really far into the fight in races like Paris-Nice, I’m not the kind to contest the win tomorrow – I’ll focus on the team.“