Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) lost some ground on his general classification rivals after a mechanical problem on the final climb of stage 8 of the Tour de France. The Portuguese rider looked strong and had been able to stick with the main group of favourites on the climb to Gérardmer La Mauselaine, but found his bike lacking when the attacks started coming.
While he moved up in terms of GC position, Costa saw the gap to his rivals widen. "I'm a little sad because I had good legs and was in the top two near the end, when my chain jumped on the final climb," he said at the finish. "It is true that I didn't fall, but I had a mechanical problem in the most crucial part of the race. I just hope that I don't have a worse day than this."
The first foray into the mountains began under a small sliver of sunlight, but it soon vanished as the riders made their way from Tomblaine to Gérardmer. "It was a very tough stage and a horrible at times. In addition to the toughness of the final climb, it rained a lot and it was very cold," he said as the rain continued to hammer down at the finish line, with riders huddling under their bus canopies for protection.
Costa has had a relatively quiet opening week, but has been consistent and began the day just 2:11 back on the race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). The group of favourites held together until they hit the final climb when Tinkoff-Saxo put the hurt on and began shelling some general classification contenders out the back.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) finally made his move but could only manage to take two seconds back on the yellow jersey. While Nibali holds a substantial margin on the rest, Costa thinks it will be a close-run battle to Paris.
"It was a good test to measure the strength of the two main contenders for the overall victory," explained Costa. "Nibali is still strong and Contador, Valverde, Porte and Pinot will be close to him. It will be an interesting race to Paris. As for me, despite hating this cold and rainy weather, the truth is that I usually do well. I had good legs, but for a mechanical problem I could not have done better. Still, it was not bad."
Costa's best Tour finish is 18th in the general classification, but he has also claimed three stage wins. He is riding his first Grand Tour as a leader for the Lampre-Merida team. He joined the Italian team for a single season, earlier this year, but it was announced the day before the Tour started in Leeds that he had extended his contract for two more years. The Portuguese rider was expressed his gratitude to his teammates, after the stage.
"A thank you to my team, who has always been by my side. In the flattest part (Davide) Cimolai or Nelson (Oliviera) helped me and afterwards I was with (José) Serpa or (Rafal) Valls, and in the mountain I had the support of (Kristijan) Durasek. It was important to have the support of all of them, each in his own field."