“If I have good legs and I see an opportunity in the right place, I attack.” It was the best quote from a Zoom press conference that João Almeida held in Bergamo. “I’ll be happy if I’m on the podium on Sunday,” the leader of UAE Team Emirates expressed his ambitions.
The still only 24-year-old Almeida can write history for his country in Rome. Never before has a Portuguese finished in the top three in the Giro.
Remco Evenepoel’s former teammate is currently fourth, 22 seconds behind Geraint Thomas and 20 seconds behind Primoz Roglic. Almeida would like to see this Giro reduced to the duel between the three-time former Vuelta winner and the former Tour winner. “I have not yet been able to discover who is the strongest,” says Almeida. “Roglic is unusually patient. Either he’s playing bluff poker or he’s still recovering from the hip injury he sustained in the fall last week. Not attacking is not Roglic’s style. I already expected more from him. I think he is the candidate for the overall victory, but on the other hand Geraint Thomas cannot be underestimated either. He then again drives very defensively. Well, there are still two teammates in the top ten with Arensman and De Plus, but everything really revolves around Thomas at Ineos-Grenadiers.”
Almeida herself clearly feels better than after the first rest day. “Slightly better,” he corrects. “I also peaked specifically at this tough final week. I already tried to go to Bergamo on Sunday, but apparently nobody wanted to do anything. Hopefully that’s a good sign for what’s next for me.”
“For the television viewers, this Giro does indeed seem boring, at least as far as the battle for the pink is concerned, but look at what we still get on our plate. The Tuesday stage is really very tough, even if we don’t go really high in the mountains.”
On the other hand, Almeida is not surprised that he is fourth six stages from the end, less than half a minute from Thomas and Roglic. “The time trials did not give the differences that were predicted in advance. It shows that we are all more or less equal. For example, I do not exclude Damiano Caruso for the podium. He enters his field in the tour of his country. He can always do more for his own people.”
“The positive news is that the sun seems to have set in Italy. Dry weather means fewer crashes, a safer course. Let’s also hope that there are no more corona cases. The group is already small,” said Almeida, who is working on his fourth Giro. In 2020 he also made his debut with a fourth place and wore the pink for fifteen days, before cracking the Stelvio in the queen stage with a finish in Madonna di Campiglio. “Monte Bondone is also a very difficult job, but I dare not predict that it is already clear who owns this Giro. There will be time differences, yes, but Thursday, Friday and the last assignment on Monte Lussari are three other possibilities to set the podium in Rome in a fixed form.” (hc)