World champion Rui Costa will target a top ten finish at the Tour de France in 2014 as he makes the step up to a leadership role at his new team Lampre-Merida. He joins the squad on a one-year deal from Movistar, where he had spent five seasons.
The Portuguese rider is pencilled in to lead the Lampre-Merida’s overall challenge at the Tour, a race in which the team has struggled to make an impact over the past two years. Rui Costa has shown his stage racing pedigree by winning the Tour de Suisse in 2012 and 2013, but he acknowledged that a three-week race is a very different matter.
“One day, I have to assume the role of leader and test my limits in a three-week race,” Rui Costa told Eurosport Portugal of the Tour. “The objective is to be in the top 10, see how my body works and see if I’m cut out for a race of 21 days like the Tour.”
Costa has ridden the Tour de France on five occasions during his career, with a best overall placing of 18th in 2012. Last year, he was forced to sacrifice his overall ambitions and wait for teammate Alejandro Valverde when he suffered mechanical problems on stage 13. He went on to reach Paris in 27th place overall, albeit with the considerable consolation of two stage victories.
Like all world champions, Costa will be keen to mark his tenure in the rainbow jersey with an early victory, although he pointed out that the Ardennes classics – and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in particular – would be his principal target in the opening months of the season.
“I like to be good in every race. Of course, Paris-Nice and the Ardennes classics are no exception, and above all, Liège is a classic I’ve always dreamt about,” Costa said. “I always set off without pressure, with the intention of giving my best. If I can get on the podium, so much the better, but if I don’t win, the important thing is to have a clear conscience and know that you’ve done all you can.”
Costa, who resumed full training in mid-November, will begin his 2014 season at the inaugural Dubai Tour (February 5-8), and he confirmed that his fellow countryman and new Lampre arrival Nelson Oliveira is likely to share the same race programme as him for the majority of the campaign.
“We’re still defining the group that will be with me at every race, but I have confirmation that Nelson will be with me,” Rui Costa said.