Former World Champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) ran out of gas in the final four-way battle for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday at the end of what he called “the toughest day on a bike that I can remember.”
On a day when the peloton faced a relentlessly tough mixture of rain, snow and cold, “It was really hard,” Costa told reporters afterwards.
“It was very complicated to get through, although” - as happened in the World Championships in Italy in 2013 where a massive rainstorm left the peloton reeling early on -“when it’s bad weather, my body seems to react well. But even so, it can be complicated in good weather, you’ve got to be in good shape, too.”
Third in Il Lombardia in 2014 and a winner of the very hilly GP de Montreal back in 2011, Costa’s second Monument podium finish of his career came after taking fourth in both Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year. A recent strong ride in the Vuelta al País Vasco and a tenth place in Fleche Wallonne suggested, as Lampre-Merida director Philippe Mauduit told Cyclingnews before the race, that Costa’s form was on the up.
“Lombardia is very hard, too, but this kind of weather makes things even more complicated, when it wasn’t cold it was two or three degrees above zero. That kind of mixture of things really changes the race and the last climb has changed the race a lot, too,” Costa observed.
“It was the toughest day on a bike that I can remember.”
Costa bristled slightly when he was asked if he did not feel he had missed a once-in-a-life-time opportunity, given standout pre-race favourites like Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) were either not racing, not present in the final winning break of four, or not on top of their game.
“The new contenders in that front group were racing very strongly,” he argued, “and then we had [long-standing Liège contender] Samuel Sánchez as well.
“I can’t hide the fact that I wanted to win, I saw the group split apart and I was on the right side of that, but Poels was stronger than me in the sprint. My congratulations to him.”
Costa now heads on to the Tour de Romandie, where he has also finished third overall - but in the Swiss stage race no less than three times in 2012, 2013, 2014.