Two world road race champions got their seasons started at the recent Tour Down Under, not just the enigmatic Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) but also the 2013 champion Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates).
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
30 Jan 2018 - 12:28 PM 

Costa has been an in-between rider in many ways since his World Championship success. Halfway between a Grand Tour climber and a classics star, halfway between being the best in the peloton and one of those fighting for the top riders' wheels.

It shapes as an interesting season for the 31-year-old, who will get his best chance at a World Championship parcours since his win in Ponferrada and is settled on his ambitions within the World Tour.

"For now I'm more focused on winning stages in the Tour de France and so on. I'm looking to concentrate more on the week-long stage races and classics. So no more Grand Tour general classification attempts, it's a lot more about those one-week races," Costa said.

"Of course there are many goals in the season, the classics and a few one-week stage races I am looking at. But for my nation, I'm looking to be in good form for the European and World Championships, so many different goals this season."

It's promising to be a hot start to the season for Costa, with the heat of Adelaide behind him and the desert sands of the Middle East beckoning and top results expected by his team in important races for their title sponsors.

"It's nice to be here, It's very hot, so it's a different way to start racing. But better to be warm and get some good training in to start the season."

"After winning in Abu Dhabi and doing well in Oman last year (2nd on the General Classification), of course, the goal is to do well again this year. They are the first big goals of the season."

Costa has a rich history in setting himself for certain targets. His hat-trick of race wins at the Tour de Suisse was a feat, especially given he was often seen as an outsider on the mountainous course and since he has made it a priority to be good in the Middle East.

Part of Costa's charm is his attacking style, often animating Grand Tours through a breakaway and not shy in attacking during the Classics to take a shot at the victory. That approach will remain unaltered for the 2018 season.

"Yes, no change, I like to be aggressive. To go off the front, to be in a breakaway, to win with the arms up and not just stay back and waiting, but to be active in the race."

2018 marks a first in the Portuguese star's career, his first trip to Australia to race the Tour Down Under. It could well become part of the early season routine for Costa, who is one rider that isn't afraid to be in form early in the year.

"I like it warm," Costa said, "so I'll be back. It's also a very important race, not just for results, but also to prepare for some of my upcoming goals of the season in Oman and Abu Dhabi."