Tour of Qatar (st. 1)
Spaniard makes prodigious sprint in Sealine Beach to claim opening stage and leader's jersey in Tour of Qatar, taking Movistar Team's victory account up to already four in 2015
José Joaquín Rojas profited on Sunday from a bunch sprint with no real dominators to open his 2015 account and continue the Movistar Team's magnificent start of the season. The Spaniard became the first leader of the 14th Tour of Qatar with a remarkable final rush, lacking any opposition in the almost 300 meters he stayed on the front, to beat Boonen (EQS), Demare (FDJ) and Sagan (CAN) in a day where head winds threatened to turn the day's gallop into a nocturne one.
Two zones of crosswinds -firstly halfway through the race, after two opening hours at just 30kph average, and a latter one with 15km to go- reduced the bunch to about 50 riders, with two of the Blues inside: Alejandro Valverde, well into the mix with some strong turns before the final kick, and Rojas, who stayed protected against the win practically until the last kilometer.
Getting past the wheel of the Etixx riders leading out the sprint, Rojas did not leave any chance to his opponents and claimed his 9th victory as pro rider, also taking the relay on team-mate Fran Ventoso (2004) as the latest Spanish to claim a triumph on Qatari soil. The Murcian will wear gold tomorrow at the 194km stage two, northbounds from Al Wakra to Al Khor Corniche.
José Joaquín Rojas: "It was a demanding finish, especially before the last 10k when Bora and Trek took the bunch right into the ditch and made it considerably smaller. Fortunately, we could make the split and with 500 meters to go I went before Terpstra, who had jumped from the other side trying to launch the sprint. When I saw him running out of gas, with 300m left, I jumped, and seeing that the wind was blowing from the left side of the road, I sprinted right next to the barriers, making my rivals face the wind if they wanted to overtake me.
"I had trained well during the offseason and the results I got in Mallorca, third and fourth in two really different courses, made me more confident. This victory shows that every bit of work brings a result, sooner or later. Defending the leader's jersey? For the time being, we have already clinched our goal, which was winning a stage. Now the important thing for us is not letting it go easy, give our maximum and hope for better results, should they come. We've got a strong team and we'll try to take advantage from it."