Signing world champion Rui Costa represents a massive coup for Lampre-Merida, with their surprise new addition bringing huge prestige and potential for racking up WorldTour points. Costa enjoyed a vastly successful 2013, including defending his Tour de Suisse title and winning two stages at the Tour de France with impressive solo attacks, before his world championship win. And the Portuguese ace is now likely to spearhead the Italian team’s Grand Tour ambitions having stepped from the shadows of Movistar team leader Alejandro Valverde.
While Michele Scarponi achieved an impressive fourth place in trying conditions at this year’s Giro, the 34-year-old’s hopes of adding to his 2011 ‘win’ – after Alberto Contador’s demotion – appear to be fading. As such, Costa – who could form an impressive alliance in the mountains with rising star Diego Ulissi – appears to represent Lampre-Merida’s best hopes of a Grand Tour victory. His card will undoubtedly be marked in the rainbow jersey, but he has already shown with a strong ride at the Tour of Beijing that he intends to do justice to the title of world champion next year.