Movistar rider confirms form in advance of Tour de France
It's been 26 years since a rider has won consecutive overall titles at the Tour de Suisse (Andy Hampsten, 1986-87), but Portugal's Rui Costa (Movistar) achieved that feat today after a convincing victory in the concluding mountain time trial from Bad Ragaz to Flumserberg. Costa started the 26.8km time in second overall behind Mathias Frank (BMC), but the 26-year-old Costa put in a masterful effort against the clock to win his second stage of the year's Tour de Suisse and the final yellow jersey.
Unlike the previous Tour de Suisse victory in 2012, where Costa took over the yellow jersey after winning stage 2 and defended his lead through to the finish, this year the only time Costa donned yellow was on the final podium.
"Every victory is different, and I got this one in quite a different way than last year's," said Costa. "Then I grabbed the leader's jersey too early, and that long week cost me much energy. All those days on the podium, the press conference... that's two hours off your recovery and that's crucial. This time, I'm fresher at the end of the race, and got better and better feelings throughout the race.
"It wouldn't have been possible without my team. They were sensational, all week - this victory is dedicated to them, as well as the Portuguese fans, who came here to support me."
Costa first hinted at his fine condition with a second place to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) on stage 3, the day in which Frank, fourth on the stage, took over the yellow jersey. Costa, meanwhile, moved into third overall at 35 seconds. The Portuguese rider kept his powder dry until stage 7, where Costa took the stage victory in a three-rider sprint from Bauke Mollema (Blanco) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC). Frank lost time, but kept the yellow jersey, now only 13 seconds in front of Costa who improved to second overall.
Overall victory would be decided on today's final stage, and Costa had done his homework.
"We knew that this stage was bound to decide the race, and that's why I came last week to recon it - it already looked bloody hard to me," said Costa. "Chente (Movistar assistant directeur sportif José Vicente Garcia Acosta) also came to inspect it before the start of the race and we had already decided it was needed to change bikes before the climb because it was a long climb, an effort longer than half an hour.
"I rode really focused and kept an eye on the watts, but as soon as I saw the references were good, I pulled the gas a bit off in the final 3k of flat to breathe a bit before the climb. The bike change was fast and Chente drove me through the climb brilliantly, giving me all references and supporting me all the way to the top.
"I kept a constant pace because I knew it was crucial to stay on my own rhythm, from the foot to the top of the climb. At the hardest slopes, I already knew the GC was really close as well as the stage, so I went full gas and made the difference. It all went perfectly - I'm super happy."
Costa improved his victory tally on the season to four - two stages plus the overall at the Tour de Suisse to go along with his victory at the one-day Klasika Primavera de Amorebieta in April.
With this boost of confidence to his morale, Costa now looks forward to the fifth Tour de France of his career. Costa has one Tour de France stage win in his palmares, stage 8 at the 2011 edition, and his best overall result was 18th in 2012.
"Now it's time to think about the Tour. My only goal for the moment is getting through the first week, always so dangerous - we'll see how we do when it's over. We'll be one of the strongest teams in the race and we're really excited."
Next on his radar, however, will be his country's national championships.
"Before the Tour, I'll be riding both National champs, the road race and the TT - it will be a good test for me," said Costa, Portugal's time trial champion in 2010.