World champion Rui Costa has revealed that he will begin his 2014 season at the new Dubai Tour (February 5-8) before riding the Challenge Majorca series and Paris-Nice.
The Portuguese rider won the rainbow jersey with a powerful late attack in Florence that allowed him to catch Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez and then beat him in a sprint. He competed in the rainbow jersey at Il Lombardia in October but the Dubai Tour will mark his debut in Lampre-Merida colours.
However Costa insisted he is not worried about any possible curse of the rainbow jersey as he prepared for the 2014 season and got to know his new teammates at Lampre-Merida’s winter get together in Darfo Boario Terme, in the hills behind Bergamo.
"The rainbow jersey's an honour for me, it's not going to be a weight on my shoulders. I'm 27 and think my best years are still to come," Costa told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"So far the things have been great at Lampre. Everyone knows what they’re doing and are passionate about it. I think it’s the ideal team to help me."
"I don’t think I became world champion by chance"
Costa took advantage of the rivalry and lack of team work between Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde to win the world title. However he is convinced he fully deserved to take the world title and so wear the rainbow jersey for a year.
"I only thought about being world champion when I crossed the line. There's been a lot of polemics about the race but it seems pointless to me. Nibali was unlucky to crash, Uran too. Regarding the tactics of Rodriguez and Valverde, I think that the fatigue after a long, hard race was decisive. I don't think I became world champion by chance," he explained.
Costa will target the Ardennes Classics and also the Tour de France. He won two stages last year from breakaways but is hoping to be an overall contender in 2014. He has already identified the opening stages in Britain and then on the cobbles as a key part of the race, where he could take the yellow jersey or gain time on some of his rivals.
"The Tour is important but there's more to my season than the Tour," he pointed out. "Even if the first week with the stages in England and the pave will be tough… I want to do well in the first part of the season too. That's why I'm going to start in Dubai, then ride the Challenge Majorca and Paris-Nice."
Costa grew up in Povoa de Varzim on the Portuguese coast north of Porto. He now spends much of his time in Northern Switzerland but has not forgotten his roots.
"My family still have a farm. We grow a lot of things and I've helped my parents with the work. In lots of ways cycling is similar and hard work. That taught me the values of life and I remember them when I've got to suffer on the bike," he said.
"When I think I'm going to crack, I think of all the suffering my parents went through to buy me my first bike. My dad was an amateur; he loved cycling, but didn't have a chance to become a professional rider. He's happy that I made it."