UAE Team Emirates’ Rui Costa has set his sights firmly on a fourth podium finish in the General Classification at this year’s Tour de Romandie which gets underway on Tuesday.
The Portuguese rider is brimming with confidence after a series of strong performances in the Ardennes Classics and is now hoping to add to his impressive achievements, which already includes third place finishes at the Swiss race in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Commenting ahead of the tour, the 31-year-old. said: “I’m looking forward to Romandie and it’s allowed me to get on the podium three times.
“Usually after Liege-Bastogne-Liege, my general condition is good, which gives me the confidence to battle for the overall victory as well as trying to win a stage. I hope that’s the case again this year.”
Team mate Dan Martin also returns to the Tour de Romandie after last riding the stage race in 2015 where he finished 104th.
The duo head to Switzerland from Belgium, fresh off the back of Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday – a race in which UAE Team Emirates performed effectively, controlling the peloton for long sections of the 256km route.
The race was eventually won by Bob Jungels (Quick Step), who produced yet another surprise victory to take top spot ahead of Michael Woods (Team EF) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale).
Unfortunately luck was not on the side of Irishman Martin, who suffered a puncture whilst chasing down the breakaway with a select group of riders.
The misfortune happened with only 8kms to go, preventing the team’s leader from closing the gap and contending another podium finish at the biggest monument of the season.
The 31-year-old said: “I’ve punctured in the worst of moments and when I saw my front wheel was completely flat, I could not believe it. Now I hope to profit from my hard work at the Tour of Romandie.
“I’m going back again after last participating in 2015, so I know I’ll face a particularly demanding edition of the Swiss race. There’s not going to be one simple stage and it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve routed the two time trials.
Martin and Costa will be joined in Romandie by leading Colombian climber Darwin Atapuma, Kristijan Durasek, Roberto Ferrari, Anass Ait El Abdia and Matteo Bono.
Tuesday’s first stage will see the peloton tackle the challenging 166.6km ride from Fribourg to Delemont, which features four intermediate climbs before the race ends on a descent.
French climbing specialist Thibaut Pinot won cycling’s Tour of the Alps on Friday with Ukraine’s Mark Padun claiming victory in the fifth and final stage.
FDJ rider Pinot becomes the second French winner after Luc Leblanc in 1997. Italy’s Domenico Pozzovivo finished overall second with Colombian Miguel Angle Lopez third, both at 0.15sec adrift.
The race concluded after a 164km run from Rattenberg to Innsbruck, featuring a series of climbs, one of which peaked 12km from home before a 6km descent and a 6km dash for victory.
Padun made a late solo break to cross the line alone, 0.05sec ahead of New Zealander George Bennett with Czech Jan Hirt at 0.06.
It was the 21-year-old Bahrain-Merida rider’s first professional victory.
Froome – competing despite his case pending with the International Cycling Union’s anti-doping unit – finished the stage in eighth position.
The 32-year-old gave an adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol at the Vuelta a Espana last September.
The former cycling superstar was due to face a trial next month over claims he defrauded the US government when he doped while racing for his United States Postal Service-sponsored team.
The Postal Service and former team-mate Floyd Landis had sought around $100 million in damages from Armstrong in the case, which was due to get under way on May 7.
However the prospect of a potentially ruinous judgement going against the cancer survivor was averted after Armstrong’s lawyers and the US Justice Department brokered a settlement.
“No one is above the law,” US Justice Department lawyer Chad Readler said in a statement announcing the deal. “This settlement demonstrates that those who cheat the government will be held accountable.”
Armstrong’s attorney Elliot Peters said in a statement the settlement “ends all litigation against Armstrong related to his 2013 admission that during his career as a professional cyclist he had used performance enhancing substances.”
The Washington Post reported Armstrong will also pay $1.65 million to cover the legal costs of former team-mate and whistleblower Landis. A further $1.1 million of the $5 million amount will go to Landis.
“I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life,” Armstrong, 46, said in a statement.
“I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life – my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition. There is a lot to look forward to.”
Although Armstrong maintained the US Postal case was “without merit and unfair” he said he was pleased to have settled.
“I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes, and make amends wherever possible,” he said, reflecting with pride on his performances in a US Postal jersey.
“I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”
Landis meanwhile told ESPN he was relieved not to have to confront Armstrong in a courtroom battle.
“I really didn’t want to relive it in a courtroom, and I don’t think Lance did either, and I don’t know that that would have really accomplished anything,” Landis said.
“Rather than going through that humiliation again, we’re better off. I mean, it was up to Lance, but I think he probably feels the same way.”
However the settlement was greeted with dismay by Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong team-mate Frankie Andreu. The Andreus were among the first to go on the record about Armstrong’s doping.
Betsy Andreu said the settlement amounted to Armstrong being let off the hook.
“My thought is a vengeful, unremorseful pathological liar was revealed and got a lifetime ban so all is not lost,” Andreu wrote on Facebook. “in the end he is who he is and money can’t buy class, respect or reputation.”
Armstrong’s personal fortune had been estimated at around $125 million in 2012.
But since his dramatic fall, he has lost lucrative sponsorship deals and in 2015 was ordered to pay back $10 million in bonus payments given to him by Dallas-based SCA Promotions relating to his Tour wins in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
The Washington Post reported he had recently listed his home in Austin, Texas for sale at $7.5 million.
The fallen US cycling star had battled back from cancer to win cycling’s most prestigious race, the Tour de France, a record seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005.
Floyd Landis just won more than $1 million in a legal case against his former teammate Lance Armstrong. Here are his thoughts on the suit, cycling, and his onetime rival: https://t.co/76daoMIBi5 pic.twitter.com/qVH2HaqKla— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) April 19, 2018
Although rumours of drug use swirled around Armstrong throughout his career, he never failed a test.
However his reputation imploded when the United States Anti-Doping Agency wrapped up an investigation which concluded he had been at the heart of a sophisticated doping program throughout his career.
Armstrong later confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs and was banned from all competitions for life and stripped of his seven Tour titles.