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Rui Costa said he had been inspired to switch to the Intermarché-Circus Wanty team after six years with UAE Team Emirates, and proved that he made the right choice by taking victory in the Trofeo Calvia on Wednesday.
The 2013 World Champion out-sprinted Louis Vervaeke (Soudal-Quickstep) and Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) after being on the attack for the final 33km of the 150.1 race.
“A new team, a new jersey and a victory for my first race day of the season – my first international success in three years makes me so happy,” Costa said. “I couldn’t have asked for more for my debut with Intermarché-Circus-Wanty!
“It boosts my morale to finally be able to show that I never forgot how to win. The magic undoubtedly comes from being with my new team, with a fantastic group of teammates and brilliant staff. This evening we will celebrate together this important moment for me!”
Healy and Dutch champion Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto-Dstny) were the last survivors of the day’s breakaway on a cold and soggy slog through the hills around Palmanova, fortunately avoiding the rare snow that had fallen in the Sierra Tramuntana.
Riders took care to stay upright on the slick descents after Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), who won the race last year, was one of the unfortunate fallers and did not finish. His team later reported that he had no serious injuries. The bunch took their time to catch the escapees, with Julian Alaphilippe and three teammates in the 10-rider chase.
On an uncategorized climb before the category 2 Coll de sa Gramola with 33km to go, Costa shot clear of the chasing group with Soudal-Quickstep’s Louis Vervaeke as the gap to the two leaders began to drop.
The situation remained the same over the top of the Gramola before the two chasers joined Healy and Eenkhoorn on the descent with 22km to go.
Disaster nearly struck for Costa on a roundabout where he almost missed the turn, but his compatriots waited for him to rejoin and, with just 17.5km to go, they still had 38 seconds on the chase group where Alaphilippe appeared to be controlling the pace.
Vervaeke launched his move with 16km to go as the road leveled off but he was brought back 3km later mainly by Healy as the chasers languished 50 seconds behind. The surge, however, succeeded in ejecting Eenkhoorn from the chase.
Vervaeke attacked the leaders for a second time with 10km to go but again, Costa and Healy reeled him back in. The chasing group, led by Alaphilippe, came within seconds of catching the three leaders.
“The weather conditions made it difficult today, with a lot of wind and rain and cold temperatures,” Costa explained. “The dangerous descent of Coll de Soller halfway through the race caused an explosion of the peloton, enabling Kobe Goossens and myself to escape with a group of ten riders. Kobe and I were confident, even against a quartet of Soudal-Quickstep among others.
“In the final I trusted my instinct and in the end I won the race. I only thought about the victory and even though the chasers came very close in the final kilometer, I stayed calm and never looked back.”
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