World Champion still looking for victory at Paris-Nice
Rui Costa’s (Lampre-Merida) hunt for a victory in the rainbow jersey continues after he had to settle for second place for the fifth time this season on stage 7 of Paris-Nice.
Costa was visibly upset by his failure to notch up his first win of the season. The Portuguese rider took some time to himself, slumped over his handlebars, after he crossed the line.
“I really thought I could win, but I missed the victory once again. The bitterness is huge, because the team raced in an amazing way and my condition is very good,” said Costa. “It will be important to turn this sorrow into a spur for trying to win tomorrow.”
By the evening Costa was able to find some humour in the situation and in a twitter exchange with Geraint Thomas, who crashed out of the stage, said that he believed second just might be his lucky number. He has notched up two at Paris-Nice and found himself in the bridesmaid position on three occasions at his home race the Volta ao Algarve.
On stage 6 Costa launched a sprint that looked like it would give him the much desired victory, but he was cruelly denied by an in-form Carlos Betancur just before the line. He looked strong, yet again, at the finish of stage 7, but couldn’t find the power to overhaul Tom-Jelte Slagter. "Approaching the final lap, I told my team mates to go in the head of the group in order to speed up the pace, because I had noticed that Betancur was not at the top. I wanted to put pressure on him and I’ll try to do this tomorrow, in the last stage: nothing should be untried”.
It hasn’t been for trying that victory has evaded Costa. Despite being a marked man in the peloton, due to his rainbow jersey, he hasn’t forgotten the attacking style that has brought him so many in the past. He has been highly active in every race he has attended and it seems like it is just time and a little bit of luck that separates Costa from taking his first win this season.
The final stage of Paris-Nice is not the traditional time trial up the Col d’Eze, but the riders will have to tackle it. The 128km stage is the shortest of the race, but it is also one of the hardest with five first and second category climbs packed tightly together. With Costa’s turn of speed, the flatter finish might suit him over the likes of Betancur and Slagter. Costa is only 14 seconds behind Betancur in the general classification and could still take the overall victory too.
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