Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) showed off his world champion's rainbow jersey during stage three of the Dubai Tour to Hatta, going on the attack in sight of the final kilometre in a brave attempt to win alone.
The Portuguese rider was openly enthusiastic about racing in the inaugural edition of the four-day race but had been unable to show his rainbow stripes in the opening time trial, where he raced in his Portuguese national champion's jersey, and in the hectic sprint finish on stage two.
The rolling hills in the finale of stage three suited Costa's aggressive racing style much better. He made and joined several attacks on the climbs. And when they failed to get away, he had another go, attacking alone.
He got a gap but the persistent chasing of Steve Cummings (BMC) for teammate and race leader Taylor Phinney brought him to heel and ended his hopes of success.
"I wanted to show off the rainbow jersey a little bit," Costa told Cyclingnews immediately after finishing the stage in 34th place, near the back of he front group that formed during the aggressive finale.
"I think it's important to do that in Dubai. It's good to be up there and I was looking to win. I thought I had a chance for a while and felt good but they pulled me back."
Costa's career and his life has changed massively since he won the world title in Florence in September. Before that day in the rain he had won the Tour de Suisse and two stages at the Tour de France with displays of class. However his superb performance to outwit Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali and then Joaquim Rodriguez elevated him to the status of one of the stars of the peloton.
He's keen to prove that he deserves to wear the rainbow bands. Despite a multitude of obligations that often weaken the legs of many a world champion, Costa clearly has been training consistently during the winter. He is confident his form will get even better as the season progresses.
"I'm happy with how I'm feeling," he said.
"I've been working hard during the winter despite being busy and I think my form is coming well. Being able to make an attack like this a good sign. This is a good first moment in the racing spotlight for me and the rainbow jersey. Hopefully there will be a lot more of them."
Costa is expected to ride the Challenge Mallorca races and then the Volta ao Algarve before targeting Paris-Nice and the Ardennes. He also hopes to land a top-ten finish in the Tour de France in July before defending his world title in Ponferrada, Spain.
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