At just 19 years of age, Carlos Rodriguez is the youngest rider at the UAE Tour. However, the most interesting aspect surrounding the Spaniard isn’t his age but the fact that he juggles the demands of riding with the biggest team in the world with a five-year degree in mechanical and electrical engineering.
The Spanish teenager has recently completed his first semester in Malaga and was given the green light to travel to the UAE Tour and make his WorldTour debut with Team Ineos. It’s been an eventful few days for the two-time Spanish junior time trial champion with two crashes on stage 3 sandwiched between riding in support of Eddie Dunbar and Chris Froome.
"I'm feeling good and I’m getting used to riding more kilometres. I hope to adapt to the WorldTour level during the week," he told Cyclingnews.
"I want to learn from my teammates and try to be in the front as much as possible. There are no real specific stages I'm looking at. I'd like to do well in the mountain stages, not to win, but just be near the front. We'll have to see how the legs are feeling.
"I'm just happy to be here. I want to help my team, especially Chris, and I want to learn as much as I can."
Rodriguez hit the deck twice on stage 3 but battled through to finish the first mountain stage of his career. He started stages 4 and 5 with his right arm wrapped in bandages but Team Ineos directeur sportif Matteo Tosatto has been quietly impressed with how the young Spaniard has performed.
Rodriguez's race schedule for the rest of the year has yet to be confirmed and it will continue to dovetail with his schooling as he combines an education in racing at Team Ineos with a university education at home.
"I'll do some small races in Europe in order to get myself adapted to this level. I won't do too many races but I'll try and progress step by step," he explained.
Rodriguez's path to Team Ineos came through a likely source. His manager is super-agent Giuseppe Acquadro, the Italian who has a hefty chunk of clients at Team Ineos – including Egan Bernal, Richard Carapaz, Andrey Amador, Iván Sosa, Michał Kwiatkowski, among others – and a strong bond with team manager Dave Brailsford.
When Ineos came calling in 2019, Rodriguez knew that the opportunity to sign was too good to turn down, but at the same time the team has been supportive of his off-the-bike education.
"It was through my manager. He saw that I was doing well and he got in contact with the team. We kept in contact and the team was happy to bring me on board. It's the best team in the world and being part of it is what every young rider dreams of. The first time that I got the news that I could join I knew that I had to sign here," Rodriguez explained.
"I wasn't expecting to come straight to the WorldTour but when I had this chance I knew that this was the best option. Maybe I could have been an Under 23 but here I'm still making small steps and adapting. That means that in the future I can try and give my best. I'm not thinking about Grand Tours, I'm just learning as much as I can."
In the UAE the 19-year-old is learning on the job, so to speak. His English more than holds up but he can also share a word in Spanish with fellow new signing Andrey Amador. For now, Rodriguez is taking everything in his stride, even if he admits to being slightly star-struck at times.
"Last year, no just a few months ago, I was seeing these guys on the television, now I'm sharing dinner with them and talking to them at the dinner table. I really appreciate what they're teaching me," he said.
Whether at home or on the road with Team Ineos, every day is an education for Rodriguez.
"At home it's a five-year degree and I just started. It's going well and I'm just doing a few lessons this year so that I can combine cycling and studying. I study by myself while I'm away and then when I'm at home I go to classes," he said.