Team Ineos have signed 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Rodríguez, who will skip the U23 ranks and head straight to the WorldTour on a four-year contract.
For the past two years, Rodríguez has ridden for the Kometa development team set up by Alberto Contador. He has won the Spanish junior time trial title two years in a row and this year claimed the Tour de Gironde stage race and Gipuzkoa Klasika one-day race.
At this year's World Championships he finished 34th in the junior men's time trial and 24th in the road race.
"Carlos has achieved some really good results in Spanish races and in the last two or three years he’s been one of, if not the best rider of his age," said Team Ineos directeur sportif Xabier Artetxe.
"He was really motivated and he had all the options in his hands. He chose this one – to become a WorldTour rider and develop step by step. The most important thing is to have a really clear focus on where he is now, and where he’s going in the future. it’s going to be a big step and a challenge. We need to take care of him."
Rodríguez will turn 19 in January, making him a year younger than Remco Evenepoel, who made the rare jump from the juniors to the WorldTour at the start of this year and enjoyed an extraordinary season. Junior world road race champion Quinn Simmons, 18, will do the same when he joins Trek-Segafredo next year.
Rodríguez will combine his racing with university studies, as he undertakes a degree in engineering, and with a four-year contract – another rarity – he has time to develop at his own pace.
"I am under no illusions – it is a big step up to the professional level," he said.
"The training is going to be harder and the races much faster. I think that if I work hard, step-by-step, I can progress and adapt myself to the WorldTour. That’s my main objective for the next few seasons and I’m in the best place to do that.
"You can see that young riders are doing so well within this team. They are surrounded by the best people and it’s the best option to develop myself as a cyclist."
Rodríguez described himself as an all-rounder, with Artetxe highlighting his climbing as a key area of progression in the future.
"Being consistent across the different disciplines is my strength, but I like the climbs and the tough races," Rodriguez said.
Artetxe added: "He’ll start from zero, learn everything and find his place in professional cycling. I think he’s going to be a really good climber in the future. He’s an exciting talent, a bright guy doing a university course in engineering. It’s an important focus for him, keeping up his studies and his cycling.
"The goal is to be in a position where he can learn as much as possible. It’s not about the results or how he performs in the races. He’ll be in training camps and races with some of the best riders in the world and learn from them. He’s in the best university that he can be in for cycling, and if he’s smart then he’s going to absorb all this experience."
Rodriguez is Team Ineos’ second confirmed signing ahead of 2020, following Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz from Movistar. Leaving the team are Diego Rosa (Arkéa-Samsic), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Kristoffer Halvorsen (EF Education First), and David de la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates).
As Features Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.
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