"We saw him being very 'close' to Vingegaard and Pogacar" - Carlos Rodriguez will be in the mix for Tour de France victory believes Carlos Sastre

Whilst all the talk ahead of the 2024 Tour de France is about the so-called 'Big 4' of Grand Tour cycling, Tadej Pogacar, Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic, there is a long list of dark horses waiting to take advantage should the pre-race favourites falter. One of those will be INEOS Grenadiers' Carlos Rodriguez.

The former Spanish National Champion was a star of the 2023 edition of the Tour de France, winning stage 14 and finishing 5th in the general classification. On that aforementioned stage win, Rodriguez fought off competition from both Pogacar and Vingegaard and it's the potential the INEOS Grenadiers rider showed on that day, that according to former Tour de France winner in his own right, Carlos Sastre marks the Spaniard out as a genuine contender this time around.

“There aren't many Spanish riders at the highest level, but the ones there are are good. They are runners who are combative, who are going to enter the race well, who have experience, and I have no doubt that they are going to fight to give us joy again," the 2008 Tour de France winner says in an interview with Europa Press, highlighting Rodriguez and Juan Ayuso as the future of Spanish cycling.

“I believe that with them we have two very important pillars,” continues Sastre. With Ayuso set to be consigned to domestique duty at the 2024 Tour de France, working in service of Tadej Pogacar at UAE Team Emirates, it's Rodriguez who Sastre will be looking towards. “In Carlos's case, last year has been a unique experience. This year comes with that experience that is super important. We saw him being very 'close' to Vingegaard and Pogacar, and I think that one way or another he will be there.”

In terms of favourite for the Tour de France however, Sastre, who fought off competition from the likes of Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov among others for his Tour win, sees Pogacar stand above all the other contenders. “He is a talent, a great rider and there are very few like him,” Sastre explains. “Practically since the season started he has won everything he has raced."

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