World Champion Rui Costa scored his first two victories in his Rainbow Jersey campaign by sealing a three-peat Tour de Suisse victory with a classically cagey attack in the race's final phase. Costa escaped his break-mates and top threats, Belkin's Bauke Mollema and IAM Cycling's Matthias Frank, by giving them the slip in a switchback, and pedaling smoothly to the summit of the Saas Fee Costa won the stage and the overall classification, lifting the jersey from the shoulders of Omega Pharma-Quick-Step's Tony Martin.
At long last, Martin's rein came to an end on the slopes of the climb to Burchen. Frank led the attack that changed the race, followed by Mollema and quickly joined by Costa, as the trio of expected challengers to Martin's grip on the yellow jersey slowly eased away. Martin took up the chase and led for nearly 10km, before the proverbial elastic snapped and he packed it in. Martin was over two minutes down following the descent to the final climb.
Meanwhile, the day's earlier break had yielded the services of several teammates to Mollema and Frank, while Costa was also all too happy to enjoy the escort. The two main groups stayed in tempo mode, with Martin making it back to the virtual podium on occasion, but no further developments until IAM's Marcel Wyss, doing heroic teamwork for Frank, launched the top trio with 3km remaining. Frank went on the attack but just barely getting a gap, which Costa then closed, before heading off on his own as he attacked on a switchback. Mollema also dispatched Frank with 1.5km to go, got caught, and kicked away again inside 300 meters, but Frank (despite a brush with a barrier) had done enough to save his second place overall. Martin and Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Shimano, the overnight one-two, hung on for fourth and fifth.
Costa can officially be called the perfect Tour de Suisse rider. HIs three consecutive overall victories are unprecedented, and he trails only Pasquale Fornara (from the 1950s) in career wins. Meanwhile, the race's tendency to use relatively non-threatening climbs plays into the hands of a cagey all-rounder like Costa. I personally spent plenty of time bashing this course as boring, but in the end it had just enough on the final day to make for a fun, tactical race. It wasn't flashy -- it never is -- but it was enough in the end.
With the win, Costa's rainbow campaign moves into the "very respectable" territory, as he made his way to third on UCI points behind only Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana. Costa's targets tend to happen a bit late in the season, so in his initial Lampre campaign he is on track for another fine year, possibly a better-than-usual one.