Carlos Rodríguez, during the time trial stage between Elche and Alicante. Alberto Saiz (AP)
After climbing the demanding Colláu Fancuaya, Carlos Rodríguez (Almuñécar, Granada; 21 years old) got on the roller that his Ineos team had prepared for him. He was exhausted, but a boy approached him to ask for the photo and he not only agreed, but when he was leaving he offered him the bottle of water that he had used. The boy’s smile was as sincere as the kindness of the white jersey of this Vuelta, humble, a runner in all terrains, a cyclist of the present and, above all, of the future.
Ask. How does it take to become famous?
Response. Every time I am more recognized, yes. But I can only be very grateful to the people for the support they give me. Nothing ago, I was also in the gutter cheering.
P. How long ago?
R. Well, last year. When they passed through Almuñécar I was there supporting my teammates.
P. And you weren’t in a hurry to be with them in a grand tour? Alberto Contador said, that he had it in his Foundation, that Ineos had been covering him for two years and that he did not give him the opportunity…
R. No, I wasn’t in a hurry. On the contrary, I wanted to go step by step, adapting and not rushing. Because this is the most demanding category and you compete with the best in the world. I think we have done well and now I am already competing and enjoying the Vuelta, which was the race that I most wanted because it is the one in my country. The Tour and the Giro also appeal to me, eh? But making my debut like this, at home, I love it.
P. Were you nervous before the start of the round in the Netherlands?
R. A little, but it’s always good to have nerves. Although in reality I wasn’t too excited because I’ve prepared myself very well to get here at a good level; I have done a good planning within the little that I still know myself. The experience surely helps me to improve in everything.
P. It so happens that you arrived as a rider to test yourself and with Carapaz, Tao Geoghegan and even Sivakov as men for the general classification ahead of you… Has your role in the team changed, seeing how the race is going?
R. We’ll see as the stages go by. I didn’t expect to be in this place, being fourth and the best overall in the team with such strong people that we have. But so far I am very happy with how my body is responding to me. I came here to learn.
P. But it’s the white jersey for now…
R. well it’s borrowed [porque el líder Evenepoel lleva el maillot rojo]. It’s not really mine.
P. Ayuso is also fighting for him, a position below you. Does it bother you to be compared?
R. I don’t care what people say. I go to mine and they can say what they want. I am Carlos and I will continue to be the same. In addition, I have a good relationship with Juan because we have been competing together for many years. But it is that he also compares us with Purito, Contador, Valverde… And the Spanish are not going to have another like them. Each one is who they are and I don’t know where I’m going to get to, but I’m going to try.
P. Do you aspire to hurt Evenepoel, Mas or Roglic in some mountain stage?
R. I aspire to do my best, enjoying each stage. I am competitive and I always try to perform at my best. I am not very conformist and I want to improve.
P. And what did you feel on the last climb to Les Praeres, when you rubbed elbows with them?
R. I felt that I wanted to reach the finish line as soon as possible. But if you think about it, it’s amazing to see you with the best around you. It suffers, but it also has fun.
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