Finally some action! After two weeks of shivering in the rain, the favorites came to light in the 16th stage of the Tour of Italy won on Tuesday at the top of Monte Bondone by Joao Almeida ahead of Geraint Thomas who regains the leader’s pink jersey. The Portuguese and the Briton are the big winners of this first great mountain odyssey, five climbs, 5,200 meters of elevation gain, which allows to see much more clearly in a Giro long blurred by bad weather.
Almeida won, at 24, the best victory of his career and climbed to the second provisional step of the podium after showing an attacking temperament that we did not know him. Thomas is in brilliant form two days before his 37th birthday and now has an 18-second lead over his Portuguese rival in the general classification. Barring a failure or a new twist, the two men should compete for the final victory on Sunday in Rome along with the other big favorite, Primoz Roglic.
Signs of weakness
Third in the stage and overall, 29 seconds behind Thomas, the Slovenian showed signs of weakness on Tuesday on the endless and sharp slopes of Monte Bondone where he was unable to follow the acceleration first of Almeida, then Thomas, despite the help of his teammate Sepp Kuss. But he limited the breakage, cutting the line 25 seconds behind the duo, giving him the opportunity to stay in ambush while several terrible stages are still on the programme.
Behind, the hole is made. The fourth, the Italian Damiano Caruso, already points to almost three minutes in the general. And potential candidates for the podium lost big on Tuesday, like the Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, dropped 9 km from the finish and who finished 3 min 26 sec behind the winner. His teammate at Groupama-FDJ, Bruno Armirail, sublimated by the pink jersey, had yielded only a few hectometres earlier after clinging to the tails of the best for a long time. In the end, he conceded more than four minutes to logically lose his leader’s jersey which he wore with pride for two stages.
Armorial of Courage
“I spent three extraordinary days, this jersey will perhaps change a small part of my career,” said Armirail, the model teammate who usually fights in the gruppettos and who, this time, was still in the front row. , to courage, when the big fight broke out. And, for once, it was Joao Almeida who ignited the powder after a lot of work by the Jumbo and UAE teams to come back to the morning breakaway, led in particular by the French brothers Paret-Peintre, all two very prominent since the start of this Giro.
Put into orbit by his teammate Jay Vine, the Portuguese attacked six kilometers from the summit, soon joined by Geraint Thomas, the only one to keep up with his pace but who ended up grilling on the line. “I felt good, so I took the risk of going there. It’s a dream come true, I’ve been going around it for four years and finally I’m getting there,” said Almeida, who imposed himself. finally, after four second places, on a stage of the Giro.
Pure general classification rider, the Portuguese (4th in the Giro in 2020 and 6th in 2021) seems to have decided to force his destiny. “If I have good legs, I will continue to attack”, warned the best young white jersey. But he will have to pass over the body of Geraint Thomas, winner of the Tour de France in 2018, who seems to age like good wine. “It would have been nice to win the stage, but I’m happy to be back in pink”, commented the Welshman who crosses this Giro with the phlegm of the old lion despite the rain and the blows of fate, while he recorded the loss of a new luxury teammate on Tuesday with the abandonment of Frenchman Pavel Sivakov, following those of Filippo Ganna and Tao Goeghegan Hart.