Although Rui Costa claimed two stage victories at this year’s Tour, he also sacrificed his overall ambitions by dropping back to help his Movistar leader Alejandro Valverde when he suffered mechanical problems on stage 13.
After claiming successive overall victories at the Tour de Suisse in the past two seasons, the 26-year-old is determined to test his capabilities over the three weeks of a Grand Tour. Rui Costa’s best Grand Tour result to date is 18th at the 2012 Tour de France, where he rode largely in support of Valverde.
“With us, he wants to do try and do the Tour de France as a leader. Not for stages but to do a good general classification. He was a bit restricted at Movistar,” Saronni told Gazzetta dello Sport. “The idea is this: to bring Rui Costa into the record books of the Tour in the Lampre jersey. He’s a complete rider and he’ll also be a protagonist in the Ardennes classics, for instance.”
Lampre-Merida opened negotiations with Rui Costa immediately after this year’s Tour de France, and Saronni acknowledged that his haul of UCI points made him a particularly attractive proposition at that stage.
“Up to that point, the team hadn’t shone and we need to gain some sporting merit points to be sure to get into the WorldTour,” Saronni said. “We had indications that the boy was out of contract at the end of the season and he wanted to go to a team that would give him different competitive experiences.”
Rui Costa opted to sign just a one-year contract with Lampre-Merida, saying in August, “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.”
Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Rui Costa’s contract with Lampre is worth €1 million, and Saronni hinted that the deal might be revised following his world championship victory. “He’s signed for a year with us, but we had already agreed that we would take about it again in the spring. As for a bonus, let’s say that the world title adds value to the athlete’s image, but also to the team that he rides for.”