Carlos Rodríguez signed a pre-contract with us, says Movistar team boss

Sebastián Unzué hints at compensation should Rodríguez remain with Ineos Grenadiers

Clock08:52, Friday 25th August 2023

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Carlos Rodríguez and Enric Mas would prove a promising GC duo for Movistar

Movistar Team have confirmed that Carlos Rodríguez signed a letter of intent to join the Spanish team for 2024 but they are in the dark as to whether the rider will honour that agreement, with Ineos Grenadiers fighting to retain their GC asset.

Speaking exclusively to GCN on Friday morning, Movistar boss Sebastián Unzué spelt out the latest on Rodríguez's on/off transfer situation and remained incredibly calm over the possible outcome of losing the high-flying 22-year-old.

“He still has a pre-contract with us and that’s the reality of the situation. That’s all I can tell you. Ineos’ interest has been there for quite a few months and they’ve been trying to convince him to stay but nothing has been finalised in terms of being with Ineos. That’s the reality,” Unzué told GCN.

Unzué indicated that the pre-contract with Rodríguez may have been signed in 2022, although riders cannot officially sign for new teams until August 1, as per the UCI rules.

Asked what he and Movistar would do if they were to lose out to Ineos Grenadiers on a rider they have been courting for so long, Unzué replied:

“Nothing. Life goes on. There are a lot of riders in the peloton and a lot of talent that will be out of contract next year. Whatever happens with this, I’m always open to new opportunities. Who knows if those opportunities will be even better? Whatever happens with Carlos I would be extremely worried if my sponsors were saying goodbye if they weren’t staying but it’s one rider and riders come and go each season. It won’t be the end of the world if he stays at Ineos.”

Movistar, and its previous team incarnations, does have a long history of working with GC riders. Miguel Induráin was the natural successor to Pedro Delgado in the early 1990s and went on to win five Tours de France and two editions of the Giro d’Italia. When the Spanish legend retired, Abraham Olano and Alex Zulle held leadership positions with varying success before Alejandro Valverde was picked up from Kelme at the end of 2004.

Missing out on Rodríguez would be a blow for any team, although the Spanish team can still rely on the consistent Grand Tour exploits of Enric Mas, who has finished second at the the Vuelta a España three times.

“Sometimes you don’t find a solution right away. You might find it a year from now and who knows if the solution is even better. The plan was to have Carlos but now we’re at the point where we don’t know what will happen,” Unzué added.

Part of Unzué’s relaxed attitude could stem from the reports that Ineos will need to pay Movistar 1 million Euros in compensation if they wish to retain the rider's services. Unzué would not comment on this but hinted that the team had protected themselves within the pre-contract agreement.

“All of the things I can’t comment on because it’s private but there’s a proper pre-contract signed and anyone in the sports business knows that if you sign one then you have a release clause to protect yourself. That would be the most logical thing and we usually tend to do the most logical thing,” Unzué said.

As for Ineos and their stance in the transfer market, Unzué only had positive words for the rival team.

“These are the things that you can do when you have a big budget. That’s not our case or our style because of the conditions we have. We’ve been battling with them for many years and for a while it was us against them in all the Grand Tours. I know how they work and I have a lot of respect for them."

Read more: Analysing Ineos Grenadiers' team for the Vuelta a España

"They came into the sport and they succeeded extremely fast," recognised Unzué. "They might not be at their best moment, neither are we, but cycling is about cycles. Teams that you see dominating now probably won’t be dominating in four years' time. I have nothing negative to say about Ineos. They protect their interests and when they go all in for a rider, they go all in."

Unzué also confirmed that Fernando Gaviria was likely to stay on the team for 2024 but Carlos Verona was unlikely to find a spot.

After his crash at the Tour de France in July, Rodríguez will not take to the start of the Vuelta a España with Ineos Grenadiers. Instead, the British team will go into the year's final Grand Tour looking to make the podium through Geraint Thomas, whilst Movistar will challenge once again with Mas.

We’ll be showing live and on-demand coverage of all 21 stages of this year’s Vuelta a España from Saturday, August 26 to Sunday, September 17, plus daily expert analysis on The Breakaway. Head over to GCN+ now to check the start times of each broadcast so that you don’t miss out on a moment of the action! As always, territory restrictions will apply.

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