Rui Costa’s Tour de France ambitions have been dealt a blow, as the world champion has been diagnosed with acute bronchitis. The Lampre-Merida rider struggled with his breathing during yesterday’s stage to Oyonnax and lost 1:32 on the other general classification contenders.
"Obviously, I am not satisfied with my performance,” Costa said after stage 11. “I was suffering from the beginning. At first I thought it was due to heat and rest day yesterday, but after being visited by the team doctor, I was diagnosed with acute bronchitis.”
Costa has lost time on the last two stages. He was unable to follow the main contenders on Planche des Belles Filles after his chain jumped and came in just over a minute down. He began stage 11 sitting just inside the top 10, but the breathing problems made it difficult for him to follow the favourites once again. He was dropped in the latter kilometres of the stage. Costa has now slipped to 14th in the general classification.
“From yesterday I have felt shortness of breath, and today I had the same problem,” explained Costa. “It may be because of the temperature difference between the early days and today. We have had a few days of very cold rain and today the temperature reached 30 degrees. I am already being medicated and hopefully have better days… It was definitely not a good day.”
It has not been an easy Tour de France for the Lampre-Merida rider. In addition to mechanicals and health problems, Costa has also fallen foul of the many crashes during the opening week of the race, injuring his leg. Fortunately for the Portuguese rider, his leg is no longer troubling him.
“I hardly feel pain and the wounds are already healing well,” he said. “I had no choice but to fight to recover and keep doing the best you can… I hope to be able to recover soon and so have the opportunity to give back all the support.”
“I apologise to all those who have put so much hope in me, but when health problems knock on the door, there is little or nothing we can do.”
Despite the problems, Costa is the best placed Lampre-Merida rider - 5:34 behind the yellow jersey. His teammate Chris Horner is a further three positions behind Costa, in 17th.