Rui Costa will ride for Lampre-Merida in 2014 after agreeing to join the Italian squad from Movistar. The 26-year-old Portuguese rider arrives at the team with the stated aim of making an impact on the general classification in the Grand Tours.
Winner of the past two editions of the Tour de Suisse and three Tour de France stages in the last three years, Rui Costa adds considerable firepower to the Lampre line-up and brings a considerable haul of WorldTour points with him.
“In the last few years, I have been constantly improving and that has carried me to some top-level successes,” Rui Costa said. “I think that I have reached a point in my career where I can aim at an important result in the general classification of a big stage race like the Tour de France.”
Rui Costa’s best overall finish in a grand tour to date is 18th at the 2012 Tour de France, but with Nairo Quintana and Alejando Valverde ahead of him in the pecking order at Movistar, his opportunities to improve on that display appeared restricted.
He was forced to sacrifice his own overall ambitions at this year’s Tour when he waited for Valverde when he suffered mechanical problems on the road to Saint-Amand Montrond on stage 13. In spite of that disappointment, Rui Costa bounced back to solo to stage victories at Gap and Le Grand-Bornand in the final week.
“I see Lampre-Merida as the ideal environment and the place with the right conditions for laying the foundations of my ambitious plans. I’m convinced that I’ve made the best choice,” Rui Costa said.
Interestingly, Rui Costa has opted to sign only a one-year contract with Lampre-Merida, and he explained the rationale behind his thinking on his personal website.
“The easiest thing is just to sign for three years because you’re guaranteed a good contract and it takes pressure off you, but I don’t agree with that mentality,” he said. “The easiest way isn’t always the best way to go. I think the most correct and fair thing to both parties is to sign for a year so we get to know ourselves better and adapt to each other.”
A professional since 2007, Rui Costa spent the past five seasons in the Movistar set-up, a spell that included a five-month suspension for a positive test for the stimulant Methylhexanamine. The ban was shortened when he was able to demonstrate that the positive was triggered by a contaminated food supplement.
As well as his success at the Tour de France and Tour de Suisse in recent seasons, Rui Costa also claimed a fine victory at the 2011 GP de Montréal, as well as two consecutive third place finishes at the Tour de Romandie.
Lampre-Merida manager Giuseppe Saronni hailed the arrival of Rui Costa as proof of the team’s ambitions at WorldTour level in 2014. Earlier in the month, it was reported that Astana had also been seeking to sign Rui Costa for 2014.
“We’re welcoming a great rider to our team, an athlete who enthused thousands of fans with his recent exploits at the Tour de France,” Saronni said. “This highlights the fact that the team has the potential to be a destination for the best athletes on the international cycling stage.”