Portugal’s Rui Costa proved his reputation for strength and durability when winning the Cycling Road Racing World Championship in Florence and the surrounding Tuscan hills, in a race which featured several punishing climbs during predominantly adverse weather conditions.
Several of the favourites withdrew in a battle of attrition on treacherous roads over a distance of more than 270 kilometres on which there was a succession of race ending crashes. Costa prevailed in the last 100 metres when he overcame Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez at the line, with Alessandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali occupying third and fourth place. Giro d’Italia winner Nibali was particularly unlucky in front of his home crowd when needing to regain ground following a crash in the closing kilometres and burning reserves of energy in doing so.
Incidentally, Rodriguez, Valverde and Nibali were also in the first four placings in the recent Vuelta a Espana behind Chris Horner and were sufficiently strong to maintain their form over the past few weeks.
For Rui Costa, the win was a reward for his consistency over several seasons in which he has won the Tour de Suisse in consecutive years and was a double stage winner in this year’s Tour de France. His Stage 19 victory at Le Grand Bornand was secured in equally atrocious weather. At 26 years old, there is still time for him to make a greater impact in one of the Grand Tours with an 18th place in the 2012 Tour de France his best position to date.
Costa has always been a consistent performer but his efforts on this particular Sunday certainly eclipsed those of the more favoured competitors. A bold showing was expected from Tour de France victor Chris Froome but perhaps he has suffered since from his exposure to the media spotlight and regular appearances at non-cycling events arising from his summer successes.
Froome also produced some solid form during spring in preparation for his Tour victory and maybe his body is just in need of rest like the rest of the Great Britain team, neither of whom failed to finish.
Although the men’s Team GB has produced the goods on track in the past few years, this has not really been matched by solid team performances on the road in either the Olympics or World Championship, unlike the displays of the multinational Team Sky in the same period. The late Tom Simpson was the last British winner of the World Championship 48 years previously.
It is now time for the cyclists to recuperate and then embark upon their winter training schedule, but if Rui Costa is allowed by his team to aim for one of the Grand Tours next season, he could pose a threat to the favourites.
Chris Froome beware.