By Antonio J. Salmerón
Last Saturday, José Joaquín Rojas joined his family for the inauguration of a cycling store in his home town, a store which uses the name of his brother, Mariano Rojas, a former ONCE rider who died in traffic accident in 1996.
"People talk about me like a clasicómano, but why not to prove with races of five stages, like the Vuelta a Valencia or Vuelta a Murcia", said José Joaquín Rojas to Cyclingnews. It could be due to his leadership of the national team during his time in the junior and under-23 levels, but in the last edition of the Tirreno-Adriatico, the 21 year-old Astaná rider lived up to promises and emerged as overall winner of the mountains competition.
Many speculated Rojas to be included in Astaná's Tour de France or Vuelta a España roster but the year soon became complicated for his team when many of its riders were implicated in Operación Puerto "It was something very hasty to speculate my participation in the Tour or the Vuelta, because I was really not prepared for that," commented Rojas.
Now that the Operación Puerto files have been shelved by the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC), and with Manolo Saiz keeping his ProTour license, Rojas does not have any doubt that his team will come out ahead. "I never requested my freedom to Saiz, although I admit to have followed the march to the Astaná or Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, among others, but effectively I have contract until 2008 with Active Bay, and I hope to fulfil it.
"The rage created by all the injustices that we have suffered will make me fight", Rojas concluded.