Spanish rider Jose Joaquin Rojas won a sprint finish in the opening stage of the 52nd Tour of the Basque Country on Monday.
The Movistar rider crossed the line in front of Vacansoleil’s Wout Poels and Garmin-Barracuda’s Fabian Wegmann to take the 153km first stage in 3 hours, 57 minutes, 44 seconds.
The Spanish road race champion was among the riders who jumped ahead following a crash during the final ascent up the Alto de San Cosme near the finish. It was Rojas’ first stage win since the 2007 Tour of Murcia.
“When we entered the final straight, I saw a small gap on the right side I could barely pass through. I thought: ‘Go through it or crash,’” said Rojas, who nearly pulled out of the race as he continues to recover from a crash at Gent-Wevelgem last week. “I didn’t care about crashing because we take so many risks on the road that danger comes from everywhere, but everything turned out well.”
The first 105 of the 159-rider field finished in the same time as Rojas.
American rider Levi Leipheimer withdrew from the six-stage race after the Omega Pharma-Quick Step cyclist was hit by a car while training on Sunday. Leipheimer was returning to California for further medical tests after injuring his left leg in the accident.