By Gregor Brown
New world champion, Rui Costa will race for the Tour de France overall classification next year. Costa signed for 2014 with team Lampre-Merida, which is making big plans for its new star.
"With us, he wants to try racing the Tour as a captain. His options were limited in his current team, Movistar," Lampre's general manger told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. "He won't limit himself to stage wins, he will aim for a good classification result. The idea is to take Costa, with Lampre's name, to the Tour's top. He's a complete rider."
Portugal's 26-year-old won the World Championship in Florence on Sunday ahead of three Grand Tour riders. His top finish in the Tour de France is 18th in 2012. This year, he won two stages while supporting Movistar team-mates Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana.
Saronni reached a one-year agreement with him in August for a reported €1m (or £835,000). He needed a star for the Tour and WorldTour points to guarantee the team stayed in the first division. Lampre currently sits 14th out of 19 first division teams.
"Lampre really pushed us to take him because the company does a lot of business in Portugal, where Costa's name is widely known," Saronni explained.
"He was without a contract and wanted a team that would allow him freedom. He wasn't yet a world champion, but won the Tour of Switzerland twice and three stages in the Tour de France."
Saronni's Grand Tour star, Michele Scarponi helped Italy's Vincenzo Nibali in the Worlds. Nibali made the winning escape but lost to Costa and two Spaniards, Valverde and Joaquím Rodríguez. Saronni, however, won the rainbow jersey.
Scarponi has yet to renew his contract. His agent, Raimondo Scimone told Cycling Weekly, "The most likely thing is that he remains with Lampre, but anything's possible." The two parties are meeting this week.
Lampre has its fourth world champion with Costa, adding to Alessandro Ballan, Igor Astarloa and Oscar Camenzind. All four riders failed tests or have been involved in doping cases. Costa tested positive in 2010 for stimulant methylhexaneamine, which he said he accidentally ingested from a food supplement. Officials supported his claim and allowed him to return.
"All of that was a long time ago," Costa said after he won the Tour stage to Gap this year. "The past is the past."
Costa celebrates first road race world title for Portugal