World champion Rui Costa won his third consecutive title at the Tour de Suisse on Sunday, something that no other rider has done. The Lampre-Merida rider now heads into the Tour de France with the confidence needed to lead his team in the overall classification.
Costa won the final stage and the overall classification at the nine-day Tour de Suisse – his first victories of the season.
"What a wonderful day: stage and overall classification victories, I could not have asked for a better end,” Costa said. “No one had ever won Tour de Suisse three times in a row. I’m proud to be the first one to do it and I think it's even a bigger satisfaction having done it wearing the rainbow jersey."
Costa’s win comes after a frustrating series of runner-up places at Paris-Nice and the Volta ao Algave. “These are also my first season’s successes after six second places, it's something very good for me and the team. Thanks to my teammates, to the team staff, to the sponsors and to all the Portuguese fans who supported me on Swiss roads.”
Costa went into the final stage 1:05 down on overnight leader Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). He attacked Martin and bridged up to a decisive breakaway that had formed earlier during the 157km stage from Martigny to Saas Fee, making the move with other overall contenders Matthias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin).
The trio remained the strongest of the diminished breakaway on the final 20km climb to the finish line. Frank was the first to show his hand but Costa counter-attacked and rode into Saas Fee alone, securing the stage win and building enough time on Martin to take the overall title. Frank finished second and Mollema third in the overall, while Martin hung on for fourth place.
The win gives Costa a boost of confidence as he heads into the Tour de France in two weeks. On Friday, Lampre-Merida team manager Brent Copeland announced the team’s long list of 11 riders for the Tour de France, noting that the final selection would be built around Costa, who is aiming for a top position in the overall classification.
“[The Tour de France] is the most important race in the world and this year Lampre-Merida line up with GC ambitions,” Copeland told Tuttobiciweb. “We will try to do well and we want to get the best possible result. In particular, we want to see how far our world champion Rui Costa can go as he will test himself in a three-week race against the best riders in the world.
The Tour de France starts on July 5 in Leeds, Yorkshire.
Lampre-Merida long-list for the Tour de France: Rui Costa, Chris Horner, Sacha Modolo, José Serpa, Nelson Oliveira, Kristijan Ðurasek, Rafael Valls, Matteo Bono, Filippo Pozzato, Maximiliano Richeze and Davide Cimolai.