After a shaky start to life at WorldTour level, Intermarché-Circus-Wanty spent 2022 punching well above their weight, and that trend has only intensified at the start of 2023, with Rui Costa already looking like an inspired signing.
The former world champion hadn’t won for two seasons, and only had two wins to show for the past six years, but now he has three in the past month and is well in the running at the Volta ao Algarve.
Costa has always struggled to rediscover his Midas touch of 2013, which culminated in the rainbow jersey in Florence, but he appears to have struck upon a rich vein of form at 36 years of age.
After winning the Trofeo Calvia at Challenge Mallorca, then a stage and the overall at Volta Valenciana, he sits third overall in the Algarve, having placed third on the first summit finish at Foia and gained bonus seconds in an elite late breakaway on stage 3.
“This year has started well. The feelings I’ve had have been very good, the results I’ve had have been perfect. So for now I’m very happy with how it’s all going,” Costa told Cyclingnews.
The Portuguese rider, who started his career at Movistar, has spent the past six seasons at UAE Team Emirates, and the three before that at the Lampre-Merida squad that effectively preceded it.
In what could be the final contract of his career, he chose to sign for Intermarché, a team who seemed out of place at WorldTour level in 2021 but now look like an intelligently-managed squad working wonders with limited resources.
“The truth is the team is great, a very nice environment to work in. I’m really enjoying it and we’re all super motivated,” Costa said.
“It’s a smaller team, but I don’t mean badly run. There is maybe a bit less pressure, but the objective is still to be up there. We have to fight and we have to do great things.”
Costa was reluctant to compare his current form with previous points of his career, arguing that the main reason for his recent run of success was the freedom he has found in his new surroundings.
He joined UAE in their first year but the team has grown into one of the leading WorldTour forces, with two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar among a host of other proven race winners.
“At UAE I was a bit limited,” Costa said. “The change of teams has brought me new opportunities and with that comes new motivation.
“The condition has always been there. The only thing is that at UAE it was a different plan, a different role. I had my small opportunities but I usually ended up with…
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