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After bridging across to the early break, Rojas made a solo attack in the finale and held off chasers Vicioso and Simon to take his second Spanish road race title; Vicioso beat Simon in the sprint for second

Photo: Movistar Team

ANGEL VICIOSO

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JOSE JOAQUIN ROJAS GIL

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSSHIPS

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25.06.2016 @ 14:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Five years after taking his first title, Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) conquered his second Spanish Road Race Championships by riding to a rare solo win on a hilly course in Cocenteina. Having bridged across to a two-rider break, he dropped his companions with a late attack and held off Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and Jordi Simon (Verva) to take home the coveted champion’s jersey.

 

Jose Joaquin Rojas may be known as a sprinter but his great climbing skills make him a much more versatile rider. In fact, the strong Spaniard has developed into more of a grand tour domestique for Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana and nowadays he rarely mixes it up in bunch sprints.

 

However, Rojas often proves that he can take his own chance on lumpy courses like he did when he claimed a first Spanish road race title in 2011. Back then, he escaped with Alberto Contador and easily beat the grand tour star in a sprint.

 

Today Rojas went into the 2016 edition of the race as one of several options for the mighty Movistar team which always dominated the battle for the Spanish crown. Like he did in 2011, he grabbed his opportunity and refused to wait for a sprint, riding aggressively and ultimately claiming a solo win. Unfortunately, he is not on the Movistar long-list for the Tour de France so he won’t be able to wear his new jersey in France next month.

 

The 2016 edition of the Spanish Championships were held on a 32.4km circuit around the city of Cocenteina. The loop included a tough climb right from the start and then several smaller ascents in the first half. The second part was mainly descending but had a small climb just 3.7km from the finish. From there, it was a gradual rise all the way to the line. The circuit was covered six times for an overall distance of 194.4km.

 

164 riders gathered under a sunny sky to embark on a race that would decide who’s going to wear one of the most coveted jerseys of the cycling season in 2016. Miguel Llaneza (Kuota) was the first attacker but it was a group with Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Jaime Roson (Caja Rural), Adrian Gonzalez (Euskadi), Cristian Rodriguez (Wilier), Jose Alberto Marquez (GM Europa), Ivan Garcia (Klein), Pablo Guerrero (Radio Popular) and Sergio Perez (Kuota) who formed the first serious group after 4km of racing. However, the peloton reacted quickly and brought them back.

 

Fernandez and Rodriguez were very active and when seven riders had built an advantage of 15 seconds at the 11km mark, they were again there. This time they were joined by Jose Herrada (Movistar), the Caja Rural pair of Diego Rubio and Miguel Angel Benito, Alex Aranburu (Euskadi) and David Belda (Roth) and while Jorge Cubero (Burgos) took off in pursuit, they were allowed to increase their advantage. After 15km of racing, they were 1.00 ahead of their lone chaser and 1.20 ahead of the peloton which quickly brought Cubero back.

 

Despite having two riders in the break, Movistar hit the front but they were not chasing yet. The gap had gone out to 3.25 after 22.5km of racing and at the 27km mark it was five minutes. The gap was unchanged when they crossed the finish line for the first time.

 

The riders covered 41.1km during the first hour and the pace was relatively stable while Movistar kept the gap around 4.30. At the second passage of the line, it was still 4.25.

 

79km were covered during the first two hours before Movistar started to up the pace. At the 80km mark, they had reduced the gap to 3.10 but it was still too early to go full gas. Hence, the escapees gained almost a minute again and at the end of the third lap, the advantage was 3.50.

 

As they started to climb again, Benito was briefly dropped from the front group and after he had briefly made it back, he finally had to surrender. At the 108km mark, he was 30 seconds behind the leaders while the peloton was still at 3.50.

 

Benito was losing ground and after three hours and 119km of racing, he had lost more than 1.30. At the same time, Caja Rural took over the pace-setting in the peloton and they soon brought their fading teammate back.

 

At the 123km mark, the gap had dropped to two minutes and so it was evident that the escapees had to react. Fernandez and Belda dropped their companions on the final climb of the circuit and started the penultimate lap with an advantage of 13 seconds over their chasers and 1.30 over the peloton.

 

Fernandez and Belda increased their advantage as they tackled the main climb and reached the 130km mark with an advantage of 1.15 over the next quartet. Further back, it was now Caja Rural all over the place in the peloton and they quickly brought the chasers back.

 

Caja Rural brought the gap down to 1.15 after 135km of racing before Movistar again took over. As they started to climb again, they sent Jonathan Castroviejo and Jose Joaquin Rojas off in an attack and they were joined by Lluis Mas, Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Mikel Landa (Sky). That strong group was obviously too dangerous so they were brought back immediately.

 

At the 140km mark, the leaders only had an advantage of 20 seconds and this allowed Jordi Simon (Verva) to bridge across. Rojas, Pardilla and Angel Vicioso (Katusha) also made the junction and so six riders had gathered in the lead with a 25-second advantage.

 

The gap went out to 35 seconds before a strong chase group with Imanol Erviti, Francisco Ventoso (Movistar), Jonathan Lasta (Caja Rural), Mikel Iturria (Euskadi), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) Ivan Garcia (Klein) and Victor Etxeberria (Radio Popular) was caught. They managed to open a 25-second advantage over the peloton at the 150km mark. Four kilometres later, the leaders had an advantage of 30 seconds over their chasers and 1.10 over the peloton which was losing ground.

 

At the penultimate passage of the line, the gaps were 32 seconds and 1.05 respectively but the escapees still had the upper hand. Passing the 160km mark, they had increased their advantage to 1.35 and kept the chasers at around 30 seconds.

 

Finally, the peloton got going again and during the next 8km, they reduced the gap to 52 seconds. Meanwhile, Fernandez was distanced from the front group which maintained their 30-second advantage over the chasers.

 

Fernandez briefly managed to rejoin the front group before he had to surrender for good. Moments later, Rojas, Vicioso and Simon attacked and they left Belda and Pardilla behind. At the same time, Garcia was dropped from the chase group and picked up by the peloton which had been whittled down to around 35 riders.

 

Pardilla and Belda made it back to the leaders while the peloton suddenly lost momentum. That prompted Ruben Plaza (Orica-GreenEDGE) to launch an attack and he was quickly joined by Mikel Landa (Sky), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and the Movistar pair of Jesus Herrada and Alejandro Valverde. However, the peloton reacted quickly and brought the strong group back.

 

With 15km to go, the attacks had reduced the gap to just 40 seconds and the peloton was now having the upper hand. They brought the chasers back and reduced the gap to just 20 seconds as they hit the final 13km.

 

Landa, Plaza and Sanchez were among the many aggressive riders but they failed to get clear. The group had now been whittled down to just a group of professionals, Jorge Montenegro (Aluminios), Manuel Sola (Caja Rural Urbasa), Julio Amores (Controlpack), Egoitz Fernandez (Fundacion Euskadi), Antonio Angulo (Gomour) and Sergio Casanova (Ulbsports).

 

Rojas, Vicioso and Simon again surged clear but Pardilla and Belda made it back as they entered the final 9km with a 30-second advantage. However, Rojas was relentless and he soon hit out in a solo move. As he passed the 7km to go banner, he had a 5-second advantage over Simon and Vicioso who had left Pardilla and Belda behind. The peloton was still 29 seconds adrift and soon picked the latter two up.

 

Rojas dug deep to maintain a 5-second advantage over his chasers and his effort proved to be enough. He reached the finish with enough time to celebrate his win before Vicioso beat Simon in the sprint for second. Valverde beat his Movistar teammate Jesus Herrada in the peloton’s sprint.

 

With the national championships over, there will be a one-month break from racing in Spain. The next major race is the Prueba Villafranca on July 25 followed by the Clasica San Sebastian on July 30.

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