Rui Costa praises arrival of Horner at Lampre-Merida

World Champion denies rise of Quintana provoked his exit from Movistar

World Champion Rui Costa has said that he is delighted with the last-minute signing of 2013 Vuelta winner Chris Horner for his Lampre-Merida team, describing the American as a “very important factor” within the squad.

“They were looking for a rider to lead the squad in the Giro and the Vuelta, and I think they’ve got it right [signing Horner] even if I don’t think our race programs will overlap,” Costa, who is focussing on the Tour, told Spanish sports daily MARCA on Thursday.

“We have to applaud him for racing at the level he does at the age he is. I’ve got a long way to go before I get to that age!”

Currently in the Tour of Dubai, Costa also denied to MARCA that he had quit Movistar because of Nairo Quintana’s sudden improvement in the Grand Tours, which could have reduced Costa’s room for manouvre in the team.

“My decision to go was a personal one, and had nothing to do with them, both he and [Movistar co-leader Alejandro] Valverde are good friends and good team-mates,” Costa said. But he admitted that Lampre “had offered me everything I wanted, mainly leading the team in the Tour, which is what I wanted when I left Movistar.”

He added that he has only signed for a year with the Italian team “because it is to see if this is the team I really need, and at the moment I’m very happy with what I’ve found, it’s what I’ve been looking for. The team is well-structured and I’m sure they’ll look after me well in my build-up to the Tour, where I want to do as well as possible overall.”

As for a repeat win in the World Championships, Costa says he has not yet looked at the Ponferrada route in detail, “but they have told me it’s not as hard as other years, like in Italy.”

“I have to say I don’t think I’ll have as good a chance of winning: it’ll be more a race for [Peter] Sagan, [Fabian] Cancellara or [Philippe] Gilbert.”

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