It has been a quiet few months for Philippe Gilbert in the rainbow jersey, though the other two riders I’m following in 2013 – Movistar’s climbing starlets Nairo Quintana and Rui Costa – have excelled beyond all expectations. Here’s a recap of the trio’s results since our last update in April.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
- 5th at Amstel Gold Race.
- 15th at Flèche Wallonne.
- 7th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège
- 3rd overall and two 3rd places at Baloise Belgium Tour.
- 59th overall and one 3rd place at Tour de Suisse.
- 6th at Belgian National Championships road race.
- 62nd overall and one 5th place at Tour de France.
- 27th at Clasica San Sebastian.
WorldTour ranking: 51st, 70 pts.
Sadly Philippe Gilbert had an Ardennes classics campaign as disappointing as last year’s, with a fifth place at the Amstel Gold Race his best result. The triple he completed in his incredible 2011 season may be a fast-fading memory, though, unfortunately for Gilbert, continues to heighten expectations to superhuman levels.
He did enjoy some success as the cold, long cycling spring bloomed into summer, though didn’t managed to add any victories to his palmarès. He finished on the podium overall at the Baloise Belgium Tour before picking up a third place on a stage of the Tour de Suisse, with one fifth-place stage finish his best in a barren Tour de France for BMC.
For all the toils on the bike, there has been some good news off it. Gilbert abandoned the Tour of California in May to return home for the birth of his second child Alexandre, while he’s extended his contract with BMC until 2016. Things haven’t gone swimmingly at the star-packed Swiss outfit for Gilbert over the last couple of seasons, but he’ll be hoping it’s third time lucky.
For now, Gilbert still has time to pick up some great results this season. He’s enjoyed good success at the Eneco Tour and Vuelta a España in recent years, and will ride both races in preparation for the World Championships in Florence late in September. His principal target now: defend the rainbow jersey. In the meantime, enjoy the Twitter highlight of the last few months:
— PHILIPPE GILBERT (@PhilippeGilbert) May 10, 2013
Rui Costa (Movistar)
- 32nd at Flèche Wallonne.
- 9th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
- 3rd overall, one 3rd place, one 5th place and one 8th place at Tour de Romandie.
- 1st overall, two stage wins and one 2nd place at the Tour de Suisse.
- 1st in Portuguese National Championships time trial.
- 6th in Portuguese National Championships road race.
- 27th overall and two stage wins at Tour de France.
WorldTour ranking: 13th, 239 pts.
Smiley Portuguese climber Rui Costa has had a rather more fruitful few months, rapidly transforming himself from a capable young talent to a genuine cycling superstar. He kicked off his success with an impressive top ten at hilly Ardennes classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège, though it’s when he hit the big mountains that he really excelled.
He finished third overall at the mountainous Tour de Romandie, setting himself up perfectly to defend his 2012 crown at the equally difficult Tour de Suisse. He won two stages en route to becoming only the fourth rider in history to win consecutive editions of the week-long Swiss race, including a short mountain time trial. His capability against the clock was reinforced as he won the Portuguese national time trial championships (and thereby the right to wear this snazzy skinsuit):
Because I have the best followers in the world,here’s this picture as a gift.Outfit that I’ll use tomorrow.Bedtime 🙂 pic.twitter.com/gwgIRg7ypO
— Rui Costa (@RuiCostaCyclist) July 9, 2013
Greater success was still to come – and on the biggest stage of all. Despite being brought to the Tour de France as a domestique for team leader Alejandro Valverde (and, as it later turned out, Nairo Quintana), Costa was still given some freedom to ride for himself – especially as the race drew towards its conclusion. He picked his moments perfectly, winning two hilly stages in four days after attacking out of breakaways, as well as helping Quintana to a stage win in the mountains.
Unsurprisingly – given that his contract expires at the end of the season – Costa is now subject to transfer interest from a couple of teams. At the moment, BMC appear to be in the driving seat, though Ag2r are also supposedly looking to hire the 26-year-old. Given his versatility and potential to become a serious Grand Tour contender himself, he’d be a great capture for any team, and one Movistar won’t want to let go. Watch this space.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
- 59th at Flèche Wallonne.
- 50th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
- 2nd overall, winner of best young rider and mountains classifications, one stage win, one 2nd place, one 4th place, one 6th place and one 9th place at Tour de France.
WorldTour ranking: 4th, 366 pts.
Having taken home a stage win and half of the jerseys on offer at this year’s Tour de France, it’s now surely only a matter of time before Nairo Quintana wins his first grand tour. The boy from Boyacá assumed leadership of the Movistar team after Alejandro Valverde’s mistimed wheel change on stage 13, eventually finishing the race second overall.
His highlight was winning the penultimate stage to Le Semnoz, where he floated away from maillot jaune Chris Froome to take his first victory at the Grand Boucle. Courtesy of his perfectly smooth style and inscrutable expression, the little climber barely looked in difficulty on the climbs. He fittingly became the fourth Colombian rider to win the polka dot jersey.
Behind the stony exterior, only the white jersey served as a reminder of Quintana’s youth. That was until he broke down in tears in the press conference after his victory. “I never thought success on the Tour de France would come to me so quickly,” he said. Quintana tears were simultaneously flowing almost 9,000km across the Atlantic, high in the Colombian Andes, as his family – and what seemed to be the entire population of his native town – turned out to watch his victory.
— Mikkel Condé v2.0 (@mrconde) July 20, 2013
It was a moving reminder of his modest background. The campesino was a campeón. And he’ll only get better.
Previous update: 13th April.