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Spanish champion Juan Jose Rojas (Movistar) did not make an impact in the sprint.
Second place gives Spaniard confidence, but focused on supporting Valverde
Only a week after a virus ended his chances at the Clasica de Almeria in Spain, Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) managed a remarkable turn of fortune by recording a respectable second place finish behind Tom Boonen on stage 2 of Paris-Nice.
"I think looking back on today the outcome is tremendously positive," said Rojas. "Not just for me but for the whole team, because we were able to contest the stage and rule out some top riders for the GC.
"To come back from where I was last week struggling with illness at Almería - I had to abandon there because I was so affected. I couldn’t restart training until last Thursday and was really doubtful about how I'd go here, so I’m really satisfied with today’s result. We knew that it was going to be a really hard day with wind and rain, and we tried to be as close to Alejandro [Valverde] as possible to protect him."
Rojas was part of the front group of 21 riders that initiated a race-winning move after an at first innocuous split in the feed zone. The group then defied the chase by working well together before Rojas began to think of his own chances as the race entered the final kilometres.
"With 10 km to go the gap was stable, and I stopped taking relays to eat something and recover with the sprint in mind. I had a really clear idea that Boonen was going to be the man to follow. But even though I was catching him in the finishing metres, he was just a little bit stronger."
Looking ahead, the Spaniard says that his main concern is looking after Valverde's chances, but explained that if a similar opportunity presented itself once more he'd certainly give the race a try.
"There are some complicated finishes ahead, some that I could challenge on, but my primary goal here is trying to help Valverde. I'll be chasing my chances if the race circumstances are favourable, just like today.
"I think the way the race is it won't be any single day that decides the race. We have to be vigilant, it's going to be about days like today where a few GC guys are eliminated."