By Antonio J. Salmerón
José Joaquín Rojas is ready to make his 2009 debut in the Tour Down Under, with the support of Oscar Pereiro, Luis Leon Sanchez, Pablo Lastras, Imanol Erviti and the Frenchmen Nicolas Portal and Mathieu Drujon. Last year, the 23-year-old Caisse d'Epargne rider finished inside the top ten in nearly every stage, taking second in the first stage.
With this result, Rojas began his 2008 season in the second place in the UCI ProTour standings behind German Andre Greipel (Team Columbia). "I always start at a good level, and the truth is that there was nothing with me last year in Australia, but I failed to finish the task successfully. I hope to break the bad luck that was extended to the rest of the season," Rojas commented to Cyclingnews.
Upon his return home, the Spaniard will continue competing in the Challenge de Mallorca and in the Vuelta a Murcia. He took his only victory of the 2008 season in Mallorca, but when disputing the third stage he crashed. As a consequence of that, Rojas had to be off the bike for a month and a half.
Later will come the Tirreno Adriatico, where he held the King of the Mountains jersey in 2006. Then he will continue preparing for the Giro d'Italia by racing in the Milano-San Remo, GP Llodio (Spain), Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"I love both Classics. I hope to have strong performances there," he said. Rojas took part in the Giro d'Italia in 2007, but he left the race in the tenth day. Alejandro Valverde will led the Caisse d'Epargne in the Tour de France, but the Spanish ProTour squad will also dispute the Giro d'Italia with Joaquin Rodriguez, Oscar Pereiro and David Arroyo.