There’s a new name knocking on the door for the green jersey: José Joaquín Rojas.
The Spanish sprinter on Caisse d’Epargne is hanging around as the fight for the green jersey starts to heat up midway through the Tour. Rojas is sitting quietly in fourth place with 98 points behind Thor Hushovd (Cervélo).
“I am close for the points jersey. It’s not a firm goal, but if I am still in the hunt in the final week, I certainly won’t let it pass me by,” Rojas told VeloNews. “The most important goal for the Tour is to try to win a stage. It’s hard against the best sprinters in the world, but I am trying.”
Rojas, 25, is one of Spain’s newest fast men in the bunch. This year’s Tour is his second start and he’s learning how to work through the bunch and contest for the final sprints. So far, he’s finished seventh three times and snagged a Tour-best fourth in stage 5.
“I am not a pure sprinter, but I am better at getting over the mountains and winning out of breakaway groups,” Rojas said. “If I can find an opportunity in these transition stages that we are approaching before the Pyrénées, I would like to try to get into an escape. If I can leave behind riders like Petacchi and Cavendish on the climbs, I will have a better shot at victory.”
Caisse d’Epargne sport director José Luís Jaimerena said the green jersey isn’t the top goal.
“Rojas is gaining experience at the Tour level this year and we’re hoping he can be among the best in the next two or three years. That’s when the green jersey might become a realistic goal,” Jaimerena told VeloNews. “His strong point as a sprinter is that he can climb quite well. He could be a factor in the final week.”
Points standings after stage 10
- 1. Thor Hushovd, Cervelo TestTeam, 128 points
- 2. Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre-Farnese, 120 points
- 3. Robbie McEwen, Katusha Team, 107 points
- 4. Jose Joaquin Rojas, Caisse d’Epargne, 92 points
- 5. Mark Cavendish, Team HTC-Columbia, 85 points
- Complete points standings
Rojas has been nipping at the edge of a breakout success for the past few seasons. He was ninth in Ghent-Wevelgem in 2007 in his second pro season and third overall at the 2009 Tour Down Under. He was third at the Four Days of Dunkirk this year and finished second in the Tour de Suisse points competition just before the Tour.
“He’s not a pure sprinter like Petacchi or Cavendish, but he’s very fast and not afraid to get in the mix,” Jaimerena said. “Physically, he’s already strong enough. He’s gaining experience that will help him. It’s only a matter of time that he gets a big win.”