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Carlos Rodríguez Wins Tour de Romandie and Puts INEOS Back on Track

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Carlos Rodriguez won a hard-fought victory in the 77th Tour de Romandie and helped get the season of his INEOS Grenadiers back on track. His 7-second GC win over Aleksandr Vlasov (BORA-hansgrohe) was one of stubborn persistence, rather than brilliant riding, yet it came over a top-quality field, which included Juan Ayuso and Adam Yates (Both UAE Team Emirates), Enric Mas (Movistar) and Olympic road race gold medalist Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost).

But the rider that caught the eye of many commentators was Vlasov’s young teammate Florian Lipowitz, who finished third, at 9 seconds. The 23-year-old German was clearly the strongest on the ascent that decided the race, the climb on stage 4 to the finish line at Leysin (13.8km @ 6%).

He was riding in the lead group with Rodríguez and Carapaz, when the Ecuadorian ITT champion broke away and soon had a healthy lead. Lipowitz was on the radio to his team asking for permission to go after him, since Vlasov was BORA’s team leader. When he was given the go-ahead, Carapaz had a lead of some 100m with 300m to the finish line. The young German then put on an astonishing burst of speed and gained ground on the tiring EF Education leader with each pedal stroke, and came within a bike length of taking the biggest victory of his young career.

Rodríguez finished third in the stage, 10 seconds behind the winner, but 44 seconds ahead of the previous GC leader, Ayuso. This just about guaranteed his GC victory as Sunday’s final stage was tailor-made for sprinters and easy for INEOS to control. In addition, persistent rainfall made aggressive riding risky as several riders slid out and crashed on the slick road surface. The sprint was won by Dorian Godon (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), who capped an excellent week as the 27-year-old Frenchman also won the stage 1 sprint.

Rodríguez was understandably delighted to take the first stage-race victory of his career and the biggest triumph since he won a stage of the Tour de France last year. “I’m full of pride and very happy to finally win a stage race,” he said after the race. “I’m very grateful to the team for all the work they did for me. It’s a great satisfaction, and justifies all the work we’ve done behind the scenes. We knew it was going to be a complicated day with the rain, and I had to suffer, like everyone did, but the important thing is we brought the jersey home.”

It was only the sixth win of 2024 for INEOS Grenadiers, and only the season’s second major win, after Tom Pidcock won the Amstel Gold Race in March. However, there were signs that the team’s 2019 Tour de France winner Egan Bernal is finally approaching his best form after suffering devastating injuries in a training crash two years ago.

The 27-year-old Colombian finished 10th in the Romandie GC while riding in support of Rodríguez, but he looked strong on the climbs. He is preparing his return to the Tour, and while it may be premature to expect him to be able to compete with the likes of Pogačar, Evenepoel and Roglič, it may also be premature to write him off. In any case, with Bernal, Rodríguez and Pidcock likely to represent INEOS Grenadiers in the Tour, the British team looks to be on the road to becoming an elite team again.