- Place: Cieza, Murcia
- Birth: 08/06/1985
- Country: ESP
- Height: 177 Cm
- Weight: 70 Kg
- Pro debut: 2004
- Years in team: 12
- Career path:
2007-2018: Movistar Team
2007-2018: Movistar Team
GETTING UP IS MANDATORY. A frightening crash on stage 20 of the 2016 Vuelta a España, a race during which he had worked so hard to launch Nairo Quintana towards overall success, was a near career-ending one. An open tibia and fibula fracture in his left leg drew a long recovery, one that he shortened with courage and dedication to get on his bike barely two months after the incident. The 2017 season confirmed he was fully recovery: fine performances in the Vuelta (coming close to a stage win many times), the Giro (again supporting Quintana) and the classics (even got 5th place in the Amstel Gold Race) showed there was much more Rojas to be expected in the future. In 2018, he was struck by misfortune again: a crash towards Roubaix on stage nine of the Tour de France forced him to DNF in the ‘Grande Boucle’.
DOUBLE NATIONAL CHAMPION. His winning palmarès – quite shorter that he deserves considering the long list of good finishes without a victory he holds as a pro – sees two lines shining more brightly than the rest: his victories in the Spanish road race championships, both on Valencian soil. The first one came in Castellón de la Plana in 2011, with an unforgettable performance over the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, where José Joaquín was the only one able to stick to Alberto Contador’s wheel, whom he later bested into a two-up sprint. The second title arrived in Cocentaina in 2016, which a solo attack into the final lap after making it into the right break. Rojas has also ridden the World Championships of Copenhague and Bergen with the Spanish national team, as well as the London Olympics.
WINNER TURNED DOMESTIQUE. Rojas’s metamorphosis over his long professional career – 13 years in the WorldTour, 12 within Unzué’s ranks – has been remarkable. He was one with the power to win – he’s got stages in the Volta a Catalunya, the Tour of Qatar, the Vuelta al País Vasco – and contested the sprints of the Grand Tours, as proven by his second-place finish in the Points classification of the 2011 Tour de France, wearing the green jersey for four days. Yet, he chose to be a luxury domestique for Quintana and Valverde into three-week events, and fulfilled that task brilliantly. He has 13 Grand Tour apperances, with seven consecutive Tours de France, 4 Vueltas and two Giros d’Italia. In 2018, his best result came in Italy, as he finished 6th in the Trofeo Matteotti.
His older brother Mariano was considered by many to be the biggest prospect of Spanish cycling in the 1990s. A traffic accident while heading for the Spanish national championship in Sabiñánigo, in June 1996, ended his life at just 23 years old. José Joaquín took his relay and he remembers Mariano in every victory he gets, pointing his arm to heaven.
In late 2017, and once the season was over, ‘Rojillas’ -his nickname inside the team and his Twitter handle- went again to the operating room. He had an intramedullary rod removed from his leg, which was fixing his tibia after the Vuelta crash and caused him lots of pain during the whole season. The length of the rod was nothing less than spectacular: more than 40 centimeters.
HIS ROAD TOWARDS THE 2018 TDF
44 racing days:
– Challenge Mallorca (21st, 35th, 8th)
– Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (68th)
– Vuelta a Murcia (9th)
– Clásica de Almería (18th)
– Abu Dhabi Tour (32nd)
– Strade Bianche (29th)
– GP Larciano (38th)
– Volta a Catalunya (55th)
– Vuelta al País Vasco (39th)
– Amstel + Flèche + Liège (68th, 87th, 64th)
– Tour de Suisse (44th)
– Spanish RR Championships (41st)
6th appearance. Previous TDFs > 2014: DQ, st. 18. 2013: 79th. 2011: 79th. 2010: 67th. 2009: 83rd.
A brutal crash almost ruining his career -tibia and fibula fractures on stage 20 of the 2016 Vuelta a España-, Rojas recovered admirably to shine with his team-mates in the 2017 Giro and go on to perform brilliantly as an individual in the Vuelta, where he missed on a stage win after insistent attempts.
José Joaquín’s Grand Tour choice for the season, initially expected to ride the Giro, was modified to become a key support for the Movistar Team leaders in the Tour de France. The Spaniard tested his legs in the Tour de Suisse, where two crashes hampered his overall level. Still, he’s much needed because of his ability to keep the team’s references in good position on the flat and also conduct them through the mountains, where he reaches significant heights with the GC contenders. He’s back to the Tour de France after a four-year absence, the Murcian wearing the Green jersey for a couple of stage in 2011 before becoming a much-appreciated domestique.
“I’m so glad to be coming back to the Tour, to be honest. We’ve got three leaders and there’s only five spots left to join the team here, so it makes me really proud to have earned a place. I feel like we’ve got one of the best teams on paper, and our role in the race will be more significant than ever. The Tour is a race where everything is magnified to extremes – everything good or bad you do has an enormous impact. It’s the biggest race of them all. It’s different, because you can’t relax for a single day. For the domestiques, the first nine days will be crucial, with lots of pressure. The first two days will be nervous, especially if winds pick up. Then there’s the team time trial, two hilly stages with tough ‘walls’, and the Roubaix stage, which will be really intense. After that, another Tour starts, with lots of mountains and terrain quite better suited for our chances.
“Our goal is doing a great job for our leaders to reach that first mountain stage in a good position, and then try to take advantage from my ‘semi-climber’ abilities to help the guys out at the toughest stages and try to bring the Tour victory home. We’ve got Imanol and Bennati, who work on the flat with great intelligence and strength, and then there’s Andrey and myself for the mixed profiles, working wherever we can, together with Marc, whom I’m sure won’t stop surprising us – I’m sure he’ll be up there with the top guys.”