New world champion Rui Costa is expected to make Paris-Nice, the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France his major goals for the first part of the 2014 season, followed by a determined defence of his world title in Ponferrada, Spain in September.
After five years in Spanish squad Caisse d’Epargne and Movistar, often in the shadow of team leader Alejandro Valverde, Costa’s move to Lampre-Merida will ensure he becomes a team leader, especially after the team lost Michele Scarponi. After riding the Saitama criterium in Japan, Costa spent several days in Italy with his future teammates and new team manager Brent Copeland, working on the details of his race programme.
Costa is expected to race in Lampre-Merida rainbow jersey for the first time at the Challenge Mallorca series in early February. He will then race on home soil in the Tour of the Algarve before targeting Paris-Nice: his first big objective of 2013. The Ardennes Classics, where he placed ninth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2013, are his next target. He then prepare for the Tour de France, which he will race for the first time as team leader, after taking two stages this year.
The Tour de Suisse, which Rui Costa has won twice, the Tour of Romandie and the Vuelta al País Vasco could all be part of his programme as he builds-up to the Ardennes and Tour de France. The Vuelta a España is not on Costa’s program, though, instead he will have a similar approach path to 2013 towards the World Championships, with a series of one-day races and training at altitude.
His biggest change will surely be the Tour de France, where Costa will be the first reigning world champion since Cadel Evans in 2010 to go for the overall classification, while wearing the rainbow jersey.
It was for that reason; he explained in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS on Saturday, that he opted to move to Lampre-Merida in 2014.
“I will miss Movistar, but I needed a change to have a team that was fully at my service,” Costa told AS. “Everybody has ambitions and mine is to do the Tour as a leader and as well as possible.”
Already voted the Best Sportsman of the Year in Portugal in 2012, there is a high chance that Rui Costa will once again take the same title in 2013, after his successful season. However, the 27-year-old tells AS that the increase in media attention, partly brought about by such awards, is not really his thing.
“I don’t like doing interviews very much and I haven’t got used to all the attention being world champion brings. However, I know that it’s all part of having the rainbow jersey,” Costa said.