Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) says he will be reverting to his former goal of prioritising stage wins in the Tour de France rather than making the overall his top objective - as has been the case for the last two summers.
Costa’s most successful Tour de France was in 2013, when he captured two big Alpine stage wins. But in 2014, when the then world champion began to target the overall classification, he had to quit because of pneumonia and then in 2015, he abandoned after a crash in which he injured his back and leg.
Now, although the GC is not totally forgotten, Costa is switching towards a different strategy for July, he says. “I will change my plans there, and try to go for a stage win,” the Portuguese national champion tells Cyclingnews at the stage 2 start of the Vuelta al País Vasco.
So far this season Costa has been in the frame for a win, with fifth at Oman, 10th at Paris-Nice where he was seventh in the toughest two mountain stages, and 11th on the opening stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco. For now, though, he remains on the hunt for his first win since winning that Portuguese road-race title back in mid-2015.
“My condition is better than I expected, to judge by yesterday” - when he finished in the front group - Costa said. “The first stage is always a fast, very complicated one, here, so that was good.
“First I want to be good here then I’ll go on to the Ardennes Classics” - he was fourth both in Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year - “where I want to do well.
“After that it’s Romandie, before either tackling the Tour de Suisse or the Dauphiné. But I’ll be doing the Tour with different objectives this year, either way. Then there’s the Olympic road race, the course is very different to other years and a lot harder so I’ve got to aim to put on a good show there at the very least.”
Out of contract at the end of the season, Costa says that he has yet to start thinking about next year and what could happen, but the former world road race champion is, he says, very happy with his current team. Stage two’s rainy weather - as he was speaking to Cyclingnews the heavens opened once again in the Basque Country - is less to his liking: “I think we’re going to be in for it,” Costa says with a wry grin, before heading to the start.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.