Happy birthday Jose Joaquin Rojas

JJ Rojas's megawattt smile (image courtesy of JJ Rojas)

JJ Rojas’s megawattt smile (image courtesy of JJ Rojas)

Feliz 27 cumpleaños JJ. What is it with Murcians and dimpled chins? JJ, Luis Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde all have one. Is it genetic?

A dimpled chin, also known as a cleft chin, superhero chin [my favourite – Ed] or butt chin [not my favourite – Ed] is an inherited trait. The underlying jaw bone of those with dimpled chins has a similar structure. So how do they occur?

In normal human foetal development, the right and left sides of the lower half of the jaw fuse together before birth. When the fusion of the two sides doesn’t take place properly, the baby is born with a dimpled chin. This is generally caused by a dominant gene but it doesn’t necessarily mean that if you have one, all your children will too. While it’s likely that a whole host of genes contribute to the formation of such a chin, the genetic data on this is quite sparse. Environmental factors may also come into play. It’s normally considered an attractive trait and a number of other famous people have them too, such as John Travolta and Superman!

It’s not just dimples he has in common with some of his teammates. Like all top athletes our superheroes have very competitive streaks. We can only wonder who emerged victorious in the Movistar ping pong championships!

JJ really came of age and to prominence last year at the Tour de France. His fighting qualities were already known but he’d not really been truly in the mix when faced with some of the best sprinters in the world. While he didn’t win a stage at the Tour, he fought an intense, thrilling three-way battle with Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) for the green points jersey.

JJ Spanish road race Champion (image courtesy of Movistar)

JJ Spanish road race Champion (image courtesy of Movistar)

But that wasn’t all last year. He captured the Spanish national road race championships, Deia Trophy, a stage in the Volta a Catalunya and over 20 top five places. Not bad for a lad who took up cycling because he was inspired by his father and his late older brother Mariano –  tragically killed aged 23 in a road traffic accident in 1996 –  who rode for ONCE.

Like many before him, JJ enjoyed success on the road at an early age  – winning both Spanish junior road race and individual time trial titles – before joining Manolo Sainz’s ill-fated Liberty Seguros squad, first as a stagiare and then, in 2006, as a professional.

As JJ says, 2006 was a year to forget while the following year 2007, now with the Caisse d’Epargne team, was a year to savour – his springboard to regular progression and building his palmares. He’s had stage wins and plenty of good placings most years. Indeed, he’s already registered a win in 2012, the first stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco on a downhill finish into Guenes.

After the stage finish, JJ said:

I wasn’t expecting to race here because I had suffered a serious crash last week at Gent-Wevelgem. I still have much pain in my back and was really doubtful about taking the start or not. Eventually we decided to come here, especially as a preparation before next week to help Alejandro in the Ardennes, and … see what happened. When you don’t expect it, you win … This victory is the fruit of all work I did during the winter. I’m a rider who needs victories, and when you’re always coming close and victories don’t arrive, doubts build up even more.

For fans of our cute single superhero, here’s a television programme dedicated to his daily life and favourite places in his hometown of Cieza  – renowned for its peach and olive groves – which features some cute shots of him as a chubby-cheeked youngster. I particularly like the one of him attacking a cake! There’ll be none of that until after the Tour de Suisse, birthday or no birthday!

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