It was a case of déjà vu all over again for Rui Costa (Movistar) on stage 19 of the Tour de France as the Portuguese rider claimed his second victory in four days by once again soloing clear on the final climb and defending his gains on the drop to the finish.
The Col de la Croix-Fry is a stiffer proposition than the Col de Manse but Rui Costa's attack was just as crisp the second time of asking, as he jumped clear of a strong chasing group eight kilometres from the summit and set off in lone pursuit of earlier escapee Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
Rolland had been alone in front since the Col de Tamié some 50 kilometres earlier, and his chances of holding on to Rui Costa were not helped when the Movistar man made the catch on the steepest section of the Croix-Fry.
After 300 metres of forcing, Rui Costa climbed out of the saddle and kicked his way clear. Rolland's response was to sit heavily into his saddle and lift up his sunglasses to show the eyes of a defeated man.
"It was basically the same strategy from the other day: I had to wait for the last climb and make a move. Fortunately, my legs responded as good as they could do," said Rui Costa, who was 48 seconds clear of Andreas Klöden (RadioShack-Leopard) by the time he hit the line in Le Grand-Bornand.
Rui Costa had Movistar teammates Ruben Plaza and José Joaquin Rojas for company in the sizeable group that went clear of the peloton on the Col du Glandon, and he paid tribute to their efforts through the day.
"I have to thank Plaza and Rojas, who helped me with everything. They left me fresh at the foot of the last climb so I only had to attack and win, and things went perfectly," he said.
Over eight minutes further back, Rui Costa's Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana were forcing the issue in the yellow jersey group on the Croix-Fry. Quintana lies third overall with just two days of racing to go, while Valverde is back up to 9th.
Valverde lost 10 minutes when he broke a wheel on the windswept day to Saint-Amand-Montrod at the end of week two, when Rui Costa was asked to sacrifice his own overall ambitions in a vain bid to limit the losses. The Tour de Suisse winner insisted that he bore no enmity and that his stage wins had put the incident in perspective.
"Since that day into the crosswinds, my goal was clearly to go for stage wins," Rui Costa said. "We had to forget about what happened, and I really have done, because I will remember this Tour by what happened afterwards: these two victories that make me so happy. Tomorrow, we'll be helping Nairo tomorrow and hopefully we can get him safely onto the podium."
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