Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) turned back the clock on Friday afternoon with his first victory of the year on stage 6 of the Critérium du Dauphiné to Villard-de-Lans – Vercors. Before thumping his chest as he crossed the line, Costa pointed his left sleeve and the rainbow stripes that show him as a former World Champion.
"What a great victory, it's nice to get the first win of the season at this stage and with a fight between the some of the best riders in the world such as (Vincenzo) Nibali, (Alejandro) Valverde, (Tony) Gallopin and (Tony) Martin,” Costa said following his victory. “I am very happy. I share my joy with the team, the sponsors and all my supporters."
It was almost like a flashback to the finale of the 2013 World Championships in Florence, where Costa earned those stripes in much the same company. As the rain fell hard on the peloton, Costa forged away from the group with Nibali and Valverde for company. Gallopin was the fourth rider in the closing kilometres this time rather than Joaquim Rodríguez, who was in the chasing group with Chris Froome (Sky) and race leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC).
The final played out differently than it did on that Sunday in Florence, but the result was the same. Costa wasn’t able to follow the initial move by Nibali but he bided his time and tracked down the Italian. When it looked like Nibali was about to do the double and take the stage win to move into the yellow leader’s jersey, Costa had him in his sights. With 300 metres remaining of the final ascent, the Portuguese rider caught the Astana rider before sailing past him to the line.
Costa’s celebration was almost as if to show Nibali that the first time he'd got one over on him was no fluke.
“In the final I was patient, I knew that a steady pace would allow me to be very effective in the last kilometre, and in the finish I reaped the rewards of this,” Costa said. “In yesterday's stage I tried to assess my sensations. I knew it was the first test uphill after so many weeks of training, so I was quiet in view of today and thought about quickly recovering my energy.
“Today's stage was combative right from the start. The average speed was very high and was able to follow many attacks. I joined two escapes and the second was good, with some very good riders.”
The result has moved Costa up 20 places in the overall classification to second at just 29 seconds behind Nibali.