Rider updates: Philippe Gilbert, Rui Costa and Nairo Quintana

It has been a mixed end to the season for my trio of riders, with an out-of-sorts Philippe Gilbert losing the rainbow jersey to Rui Costa, as the Portuguese rider’s prolific campaign extended into the final couple of months of the cycling year. In contrast, Nairo Quintana wound down quietly after a busy summer. Here’s my final 2013 update.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Image courtesy of BMC

Image: BMC

Results:

  • 2nd in Belgian National Championships time trial.
  • One 2nd place at Eneco Tour.
  • One win, one 2nd place and three further top 10s at the Vuelta a España.
  • 10th at Grand Prix de Wallonie.
  • 5th at Grand Prix d’Isbergues – Pas de Calais.
  • 9th in Road World Championships road race.

WorldTour ranking: 54th, 98 pts.

Unfortunately Philippe Gilbert wasn’t able to salvage his underwhelming season by defending the rainbow jersey, coming up short in his major goal at the end of the season. He finished ninth on the hilly course in Tuscany – and one which, as he hinted on Twitter, may have featured just too much climbing for him to contend at the front:

Happily the Worlds road race wasn’t Gilbert’s only race over the final couple of months of the season, with the Belgian spending some of his final days in the rainbow jersey at the major WorldTour races of the Eneco Tour and Vuelta a España. While he only managed one podium at the former, he showed well at the latter, capping his race with a thrilling victory on stage 12 (and one that will forever be etched in the memory of poor Edvald Boasson Hagen).

Other than that, Gilbert picked up a couple of top-tens in small one-day races, before finishing 20th at the season-ending Il Lombardia. It was, by his own admission, not a great season, with the most startling statistic that his win at the Vuelta was first pro victory since winning the Worlds the year before – and was indeed his only win of the entire 2013 campaign. Suffice to say, the curse of the rainbow jersey is alive and well. Here’s hoping that Gilbert gets back to his best in 2014 with the stripes around his neck rather than on his back!

Rui Costa (Movistar)

Image: Movistar

Results:

  • 5th at Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec.
  • 6th at Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal.
  • 10th in Road World Championships team time trial.
  • Won Road World Championships road race.
  • 4th overall, with one 4th place at Tour of Beijing.

WorldTour ranking: 9th, 352 pts.

From the former World Champion to the newly crowned one, Rui Costa capped his prolific 2013 season by winning the right to wear the rainbow stripes for the next year. After riding the Tour de France, the Portuguese puncheur opted to ride in the Canadian WorldTour races over the Vuelta in preparation – and his decision paid off.

Two top tens in Québec and Montréal suggested that he was coming into form at just the right time, and despite only having a couple of Portuguese teammates – Tiago Machado and Andre Cardoso – to help him in Florence, some intelligent racing enabled Costa to nick victory from Joaquim Rodriguez in the closing metres, earning a snazzy new bike in the process:

Sadly that rainbow-tinted machine will be thrown into a cycling museum or nailed to Costa’s wall after only five days of competitive use, as, just as significant as winning the world title was Costa’s decision to leave Movistar and join Italian outfit Lampre-Merida – despite reported interest from bigger teams such as BMC. His decision – with Lampre having hardly been one of cycling’s powerhouses over the last few seasons – may seem odd, though it seems clear that he’s taken it with the aim of leading a team in the grand tours.

Having ridden as a domestique and finished 18th at last year’s Tour and 27th (with two stage wins) at this year’s, it’s natural that Costa has been left wondering how much he can achieve when he’s the supported rather than supporter. Well, his move to Lampre – who, with Michele Scarponi looking set to depart, don’t have a serious GC challenger – will allow him to test his grand tour aspirations, and it’ll be hugely interesting to see how he fares. Let’s just hope the pesky rainbow curse doesn’t throw a spanner in the works!

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Nairo Quintana Movistar 2013

Image: Movistar

Results:

  • 1st overall, won one stage at Vuelta a Burgos.
  • One 6th place at Tour of Britain.

WorldTour ranking: 8th, 366 pts.

You can hardly blame Nairo Quintana – Tour de France runner-up and polka dot and white jersey winner – for having a quiet end to the season. After his summer exertions he’s been the least busy of the trio I’ve followed, though still managed to add another stage race to his palmarès – the Vuelta a Burgos – in August. He sealed that crown days before flying home to Colombia to a hero’s welcome, with fans literally lining the streets of Bogotá to catch a glimpse of the little climber.

Aside from winning in Burgos, Quintana finished 14th overall at the Tour of Britain, though that modest placing wasn’t representative of the effort he put in to the racing – despite the occasionally appalling conditions. His mere presence on British roads was enough to delight home fans, though he adopted an aggressive approach which enhanced the spectacle. Let’s hope he enjoyed it enough to return in the future.

Casting eyes to next season, it has been announced that Nairo will be joined by brother Dayer at Movistar. If his younger brother is anywhere near as good as his older sibling, then look out Chris Froome at next year’s Tour. Still only 23 and having shown so well throughout this season, it’s surely only a matter of time before Quintana heads back to Colombia with the maillot jaune – and imagine what sort of reception he’ll get then …

Previous updates: 13th April10th August.

Websites: Philippe Gilbert, Rui Costa

Twitter: @Phil_Gilbert1, @RuiCostaCyclist, @NairoQuinCo

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