Through a display of tactical cunning and physical stamina, Rui Costa (Movistar) became the first ever Portuguese rider to win the world road race championship in Florence, Italy, last month when he left Movistar team mate Alejandro Valverde and home crowd favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) marooned and bridged across to Joaquím Rodriguez (Katusha) whom he subsequently defeated as the two made a dash for the finish line and the gold medal. Prior to his triumph in Florence, Costa had won the Tour de Suisse and taken two stages in the Tour de France, which he predominantly rode to assist Movistar team leader Valverde.
Costa was present in Paris last week when the 2014 Tour de France route was announced. When speaking to the press after the presentation and expressing his view on next year’s Tour route, Costa also found time to reflect on the changes in his life since winning the rainbow jersey.
"Winning the world title is a huge achievement, that’s for sure, it's changed my life in a big way, certainly there’s a lot more attention and outside pressure" he told Cyclingquotes. “I never really imagined that I would win the rainbow jersey but now it’s in my possession. It feels great. I know I've made history by becoming the first Portuguese world champion. It adds something special to my win and also places a lot of responsibility on my shoulders."
Costa outsmarted Rodriguez, Nibali and Valverde as the four were left to decide the outcome of the Worlds race in Florence, adding to his reputation as an intelligent rider who knows when to seize an opportunity when it presents itself.
The undulating parcours fit the Portuguese to a T and he cleverly ensured he was in the select group of favourites that formed on the final descent from Fiesole. Coolly he then proceeded to let Nibali do all the work as the Italian sought to chase down Rodriguez who had broken clear and thus he increased his own chances my letting Nibali wear himself out.
"Of course it’s nice to hear that people believe that I ride cleverly,” Costa said. “During the last lap of the world championships I knew it was important to stay with the strongest guys. I knew it would be complicated to take the win but I never abandoned hope. I think things went my way but I also made them happen."
In a perfect execution Costa turned the tide his way when a sudden burst of pace saw him break clear of Nibali and Valverde and subsequently bridge across to Rodriguez by diving through the corners.
"It wasn't a premeditated acceleration, it just happened in that moment,” Costa explained.
"I just knew that I had to go at the moment so that I'd have enough time to get across to Rodriguez and then defeat him in the sprint. I think instinct is important in cycling and I race that way, listening to what I think is the right way to race. Of course you need good legs to win, you can be very smart but you don't win if you do not have the legs too. Fortunately, I had both at the world championships."
Costa’s predecessor as world champion, Belgian Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team), complained several times during the 2013 season that wearing the rainbow jersey made it difficult for him to launch his trade mark attacks as the races came to a close. That’s a challenge that Costa will be facing throughout the 2014 season as he wears the Lampre-Merida jersey. In the next and final part of the interview with Cyclingquotes Costa explains the rationale behind his surprise move to the Italian outfit and his aims for the coming season.
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