FLORENCE, Italy, Sept 29, 2013 (AFP) – Alberto Rui Costa stunned Spanish
rival Joaquin Rodriguez at the finish line of the world championships’ road
race to become the first Portuguese winner of the coveted rainbow jersey on
Rodriguez took an unwelcome silver with compatriot Alejandro Valverde
winning bronze at the end of the rain-hit 272.2 km epic that claimed several
pre-race favorites as well as the entire British team.
Rui Costa made his winning move in the final two kilometers of a pulsating
finale, capitalizing on Movistar teammate Valverde’s failure to counter and
then going on to pip Rodriguez at the finish line.
“This has been a big dream of mine for a long time. I still can’t believe
I’m the world champion,” said Rui Costa, who broke down in tears on the podium.
“Two kilometers from the finish Rodriguez held a certain advantage but I
still had to choose the right moment to make the jump and catch him, and then
to try and outsprint him.”
The 26-year-old Portuguese caught Rodriguez with less than 200 meters to
go, at which point the Spanish climbing specialist employed the only remaining
means, conversation, to overcome the Portuguese’s faster finish on the flat.
“When I spoke to him, I was simply trying to make him move in front of me
so that I could get in behind him,” said Rodriguez. “But we know each other
well, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen.”
A protagonist late in the final lap when he crucially countered an attack
by Italian Vincenzo Nibali on the second of the circuit’s three climbs,
Rodriguez was understandably distraught at the end.
“Winning is all that matters so this medal doesn’t mean anything to me
right now,” he added. “Alejandro and I have a lot of career wins but we’ve
both missed out on winning the worlds.”
Spain’s failure to capitalize on their favorable scenario will cause
reverberations, especially in light of a maiden triumph in one of cycling’s
biggest races of the year by neighbors Portugal.
Valverde and Rui Costa also race for the same professional team, Movistar,
and the Spaniard is often a rival of Rodriguez’s on the hilly one-day classics
during the normal racing season.
Valverde, however, claimed he simply didn’t have the legs when Rui Costa
made a crucial move to close down Rodriguez on a “difficult” bend.
“I should have stayed on his wheel but he attacked on a difficult bend and
I simply couldn’t follow him. It’s not easy after 270 km of racing,” said
It was Valverde’s third road race bronze, having also missed out on victory
in 2003 and 2005 when he took silver behind Igor Astarloa and Tom Boonen
“Obviously I would have preferred the gold medal but Rui Costa was too
strong. I know him, he’s a formidable rider,” he added.
Nibali had to settle for fourth after valiantly fighting back from a crash
after the descent of the first climb on the 10th and last lap of the race’s
hilly 16.9 km circuit around Florence.
Team manager Paolo Bettini, a former two-time world champion, heaped praise
on the Giro d’Italia champion for fighting his way back — and said defeat was
preferable to Spain’s sucker-punch defeat.
“Without the fall it could have made the difference,” said Bettini. “But
Vincenzo really deserves credit for making it back to the main bunch. I really
didn’t expect it.
“In the end, we prefer to have the wooden spoon than to have suffered the
kind of defeat Spain did.”
Rui Costa, who won two stages at July’s Tour de France as well as the Tour
of Switzerland, succeeds Philippe Gilbert of Belgium as world champion.
Gilbert finished ninth, at 34secs adrift, and just ahead of pre-race
favorite Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland.
Road race (272.2 km)
1. Rui Costa (POR) 7hr 25min 44sec,
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) same time,
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) at 16sec,
4. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) s.t.,
5. Andriy Grivko (UKR) 31,
6. Peter Sagan (SVK) 34,
7. Simon Clarke (AUS) s.t.,
8. Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ) s.t.,
9. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) s.t.,
10. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) s.t.
11. Bauke Mollema (NED) s.t.,
12. Lars Petter Nordhaug (NOR) s.t.,
13. Daniel Moreno (ESP) s.t.,
14. Simon Geschke (GER) s.t.,
15. Sergio Henao (COL)s.t.,
16. Michele Scarponi (ITA) s.t.,
17. Filippo Pozzato (ITA) 1min 05sec,
18. Arthur Vichot (FRA) s.t.,
19. Maciej Paterski (POL) s.t.,
20. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) s.t.
Note: 208 riders started, 61 finished.