DUBAI (VN) — Reigning world champion Rui Costa this week applauded the arrival of Vuelta a España winner Chris Horner to Lampre-Merida for 2014.
Costa, making his season debut in the rainbow jersey at the Dubai Tour, told VeloNews that the 42-year-old Vuelta champion would only bring added firepower to the Italian squad.
“For our team, it’s very important for us,” Costa told VeloNews before the start of stage 2. “Everyone knows that he’s a great rider, so it’s good news for our team that he is arriving. We hope to see him racing soon with us.”
Last week, Lampre officials confirmed that Horner would join the team. He could start as soon as the Mallorca Challenge next week in Spain, if paperwork is expedited in time. Horner wrote on Twitter late Wednesday that he would was set to fly to Europe to meet the team today.
General manager Brent Copeland told VeloNews that Horner was the ideal complement to Costa, who will be focusing on the spring classics and the Tour de France.
Copeland said Horner will be one of the team’s GC options for the Giro d’Italia in May, and then will likely line up to defend his Vuelta title later in the season.
Costa said he does not expect any conflicts with Horner, and added that if they do line up in the same race, they would work together for the win.
“Even if we do go to the same races, we are teammates and we will race like that, but in principle, our schedules will be complementary to one another,” Costa said. “He will do the Giro and Vuelta, while I will focus on the Tour.”
Costa will likely join Horner next week at the Mallorca Challenge, then have early season targets at Paris-Nice and Liège-Bastogne-Liège before returning to the Tour de Suisse, which he won in 2012 and 2013, ahead of the Tour.
“For the Tour, we are calm. We’ll see how far I can go,” Costa said. “I have never raced for the GC in the Tour before, so it’s an unknown. The most important thing is to prepare for it in the manner possible.”
Costa won two Tour stages last year, bringing his career total to three.
Thursday’s second stage marked the first time Costa has worn the rainbow jersey in competition in 2014. In Wednesday’s opening day time trial, TT world champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) wore the stripes while Costa was in his team-issue Lampre kit.
“I am feeling very good here in Dubai, with the world champion’s jersey, I can enjoy it in another manner. I had a good winter, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season,” he said. “Every race is going to be important for me this season in the world champion jersey. I want to honor the jersey, I want to race aggressively, and hopefully win some races.”