However, in the same interview, the agent of riders such as João Almeida and António Morgado confirmed that the cyclist from Póvoa do Varzim had already signed a contract with a World Tour team. The information was confirmed the following week, when the former World Champion was made official as a reinforcement for EF Education-EasyPost.
It was a move that seemed a little unpredictable, with most fans expecting a renewal with Intermarché. But statements from João Correia and Jonathan Vaughters to GCN explain how the transfer came about;
"What we have is a booklet with specific riders. On the last page of the booklet is a list of all the athletes we have in the agency and on that page it shows when they are available, but with Rui, at the beginning of the year, the plan was to keep him at Intermarché. We had talks about his renewal as early as April," Correia told GCN in the fall, also explaining a little about his working method.
However, the renewal wasn't enough and Belgian legislation on advertising the reduction in value associated with sports sponsorships by betting brands (in this particular case, Circus) led the team to lose the ability to renew with Rui Costa. It could well be the end of the Portuguese's World Tour career. Despite his stage victory in the Tour of Spain, Correia notes that factors such as age weighed against the 37-year-old cyclist and that talks with other teams only began in August, i.e. after the Tour de France.
"He knows how to translate near-wins into wins" - EF Education-EasyPost confirm capture of Rui Costa
And EF Education-EasyPost comes into the picture. Jonathan Vaughters was in talks with João Correia about another cyclist the agent represents: Michael Valgren. This was because the Dane had moved house and his documentation needed to be updated. João Correia told the American team director that Rui Costa was on the market, but he didn't arouse the interest of Vaughters, who was waiting for Foss's deal with INEOS Grenadiers to fall through in order to get the talented Norwegian.
However, Foss ended up actually going to INEOS, and it was then that Jonathan Vaughters really became interested in Rui Costa's services.
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"Then, about a week or two later... It happened very quickly. Then we talked about the conditions, but I assumed beforehand that if Rui was going to continue racing it would be with Intermarché and that they wouldn't let him leave." Vaughters told GCN.
The manager also took advice from Neilson Powless, who approved of the signing: "One of the first things I did was call Neilson Powless to get his opinion. Neilson's response was basically: 'I hate racing against him because he's so experienced, but he knows what he's doing. I like him, but I hate racing against him'. It was actually a very positive reaction from Neilson.
This way, Rui Costa already has a cyclist won over within the new team and he's leaving for 2024 with a desire to race."He's very motivated. Right after the Japan Cup, he flew to our base of operations to get his bike and uniform adjusted. The guy is invested in this. He really wants to race. I'm very happy to have an experienced guy with this drive. It's cool to see that." Vaughters concludes
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Welcome Rui Costa!— EF Pro Cycling (@EFprocycling) October 18, 2023
The Portuguese powerhouse will be wearing pink next year! With more than 30 wins to his name, Rui brings lots of experience and will be a strong asset to this team.
“The goals are to keep adding, to keep winning. To start this season by winning, to finish… pic.twitter.com/HgCNUqNmHk