By Antonio J. Salmerón
The promising young sprinter Jose Joaquin Rojas returned to Spain from the Tour Down Under this week after being surpassed only by the likes of German André Griepel and locals Graeme Brown and Allan Davis in the inaugural ProTour race's furious bunch sprints.
The 22-year-old took two podium finishes and third overall in Australia, but still felt he could have done better had the native riders not had the edge of training on him. "In Australia it is summer now, and at that stage, they had put in more miles of training and competition that I had."
Back in Spain, Rojas found the spring-like weather favourable to blowing the cobwebs of jet-lag out of his legs with a six hour training ride. "I arrived on Wednesday and I am still immersed in a phase of acclimatization. I was training with my Caisse d'Epargne colleagues [Alejandro] Valverde, Luis Leon [Sanchez] and Fran Perez, but I completed the rest of the training session alone because my goals are different from those of them."
The majority of his training group in Murcia live in the capital or in its environs. "I usually pick up them because I live forty-five kilometres from there (Murcia). Where I live can also be an interesting environment for my training sessions; I am happy here (in Cieza), with my family and friends", Rojas expressed to Cyclingnews.
Neither Rojas nor Luis Leon Sanchez will participate in the Caisse d'Epargne's training camp in Majorca. "Having competed and trained in Australia, we will join the team later, shortly before the start of the Challenge de Mallorca," which will take place February 10-14. "There I will try to maximize the good legs that surprised me in the Tour Down Under, but I am also thinking of Paris-Nice and the Classics."
Rojas' second place in the current UCI ProTour standings will be a prime motivator, but he will have to wait until April's Ronde van Vlaanderen to contest the next race in the series now that Paris-Nice is no longer on the calendar. However, Rojas is looking forward to the non-ProTour Classics, beginning with Milan-Sanremo on March 24. "The Italian race is not good for me, because it usually ends with a mass sprint; I prefer other more selective ones, such as the Flèche Brabançonne, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, to give a few examples."
The latter is also the object of desire for Rojas. "Last year I finished the twenty-sixth, and so that very convinced me of my chances in this race, to get ahead for much of it, so I will go there very motivated and willing to continue adding experience."