World Champion Rui Costa likely to change his Tour de France aim from yellow jersey to stage wins

World Champion Rui Costa must reconsider his Tour de France ambitions after bronchitis knocked him out of the overall battle.

“He was just battling to breathe yesterday,” Lampre-Merida team manager, Brent Copeland told Cycling Weekly. “He just had to save himself.”

The 27-year-old Portuguese cyclist began the Tour de France with hopes of a top five or top three. His hopes were bolstered when top favourites Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) had to abandon due to crashes. A sore throat and bronchitis, however, dashed Costa’s plans.

Costa lost 1-36 minutes to Oyonnax on Wednesday and 1-06 on Monday up La Planche des Belles Filles. He now sits 14th overall at 5-34 minutes behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

South African Copeland said that he wants what is best for Costa, who joined the team at the start of this season after winning the worlds in Florence, Italy.

“He has to think about whether he should try to keep his GC position or go for stages,” Copeland said.

“He feels better this morning, but we have to see today how he’s doing. With four climbs, we’ll know how he’s going to do. We’ll know tonight for the next week. If he doesn’t feel great, then we’ll know.”

Costa won two stages from escapes and the Tour de Suisse overall last year in addition to the worlds. He had a slow start in team Lampre, but showed ready for the Tour with another overall victory in the Tour de Suisse.

Copeland said that he believes that the Italian team can develop Costa into a Tour rider in the coming years. So confident, the blue and pink team already signed a pre-agreement to keep him through 2016.

“He’s a great person and a group rider, who can really keep the team around him. He’s really a rider for the Tour that you can work around. This is the first grand tour that he’s been in as a captain. Every day’s been a learning curve for him, that’s why were weren’t expecting anything more than a top 10 to begin with,” continued Copeland

“He doesn’t need to improve that much, but we need to improve our team around him. We have better idea of what his needs are for the next grand tour that we do with him as a captain. I would put more blame on ourselves for not having the right team here for his necessities.

“Next year, will bring on board men who can set in the wind for him. You have to start looking a year before to build towards a Tour top three, looking at the men you need. It’s a long process.”