With Tadej Pogacar's dominance of the best young rider category at the Tour de France having come to an end as the Slovenian reached his 25th birthday. The question now arises, who will succeed the UAE Team Emirates leader.
For Enrico Gasparotto, Sports Director at BORA - hansgrohe, the clear protagonists in the fight for the white jersey next year, will be Carlos Rodriguez of the INEOS Grenadiers, and Soudal - Quick-Step leader, Remco Evenepoel. "They are undoubtedly the most eligible," Gasparotto tells Bici.pro. "Also because I don't know if Ayuso will go to the Tour and even if he went what would he do?"
"The relationship with him is different from that with Wout van Aert" - Mathieu van der Poel on his friendship with Remco Evenepoel
Although Evenepoel's position of leader at Soudal - Quick-Step is not up for debate, the question of who will lead the INEOS Grenadiers at the 2024 Tour de France is a bit more up in the air. In Gasparotto's opinion, rather than Tom Pidcock or Geraint Thomas, Rodriguez is the clear standout. " Pidcock also has the classics in mind. We'll have to see carefully what program he will make and what he really wants from the Tour. But that doesn't mean I'm saying he can't improve from a future perspective," he explains. "I remain of the opinion that Rodriguez and Remco are the first two contenders to succeed Pogacar's white jersey."
But which of the two aforementioned contenders will prevail? "I think Rodriguez has more chance," Gasparotto answers. "Because Evenepoel is not afraid to attack and perhaps this could pay off at some point in the Tour , both from a tactical and physical point of view. While Rodriguez is more of a regular rider, he races in a more traditional way if you will and is in a leading team for stage races."
"We’re absolutely focussed on getting back to the top step of the podium" - Steve Cummings promoted to Director of Sport as INEOS Grenadiers backroom reshuffle is confirmed
"The gravel stage doesn't favour either of them," he continues, clarifying his answer. "I see them both in difficulty and neither of them, in the direct clash, will emerge as a winner or loser. Then it's up to the recovery capabilities of both. And this won't be easy, because they will have to be fit from the start. Staying three full weeks at the "top-top" is not so easy. The white jersey will go to he who doesn't have bad days."
In terms of other contenders, Gasparotto doesn't see any jumping out at him. "No, the Tour is so tough, difficult and complex in its interpretation that there is no room for surprises," he concludes. "Santiago Buitrago can also do very well for example, but I don't see him as good as a Remco or a Carlos Rodriguez.