Movistar’s José Joaquin Rojas has won the opening stage of the Tour of the Basque Country.
The Spanish national road race champion outsprinted Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Barracuda) to win a bunch sprint at the end of a 153km circuit of Güeñes.
Rojas said he had been unsure whether to race after injuring his back during a crash at Gent-Wevelgem, but decided with team bosses to use the race as preparation for the Classics, where he will support team leader, Alejandro Valverde.
“This victory is the fruit of all the work this winter,” he said.
“I am a rider who needs wins, and when you are every day past the post and do not triumph, the uncertainty grows even more.”
Rojas said he was especially proud to pull on the yellow jersey, his first since the 2007 Tour of Murcia, in the Basque Country.
He dedicated the victory to himself, his directeur sportif, Eusebio Unzué, and his teammates, whom he said had to stuck by him in lean times.
The Spaniard squeezed between Poels and the barriers to steal victory in the last 50 metres after the Liquigas-Cannodale sprint train pulled the bunch through the closing kilometres in a bid to set up a victory for sprinter, Daniel Ratto, who finished fourth.
Team Sky neo pro, Luke Rowe, finished twelfth on the 153km stage; the first Sky man home after a rolling parcours that included seven categorized climbs, finishing ahead of the team’s sprinter, Davide Apollonio.
Directeur sportif, Marcus Ljungqvist, said the team had planned to support Apollonio if the race ended in a bunch sprint.
“But it was a hard day until the finish, with seven climbs, and Appo didn’t quite have the legs there right at the end. Luke was up there so went for it himself,” he said.
“The important thing today was to lose no time on the GC so it was a solid first day from that perspective – our main aim is to be right there for the overall battle which will really take centre stage on Wednesday and Thursday as well as the time trial on Saturday.”
Result – stage one and general classification
1) Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (SPA) – Movistar Team – 3.57.44
2) Wout Poels (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
3) Fabian Wegmann (GER) – Garmin-Barracuda
4) Daniele Ratto (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale|
5) Arthur Vichot (FRA) – FDJ-Big Mat
6) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda
7) Gianni Meersman (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
8) Gorka Izagirre Insausti (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi
9) Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) – Astana
10) Paolo Bailetti (ITA) – Utensilnord Named