João Almeida is one of the cards that UAE Team Emirates will take towards the Giro d'Italia. The Portuguese climber is taking on his fourth consecutive Giro and after several attempts with similar outcomes, he's ready to take the next step.
"Even though I'm only 24, I'm no veteran, but I have plenty of experience and I've done four Grand Tours. They all went well except for Covid," Almeida shared with TopCycling.pt. "I am a much more experienced João Almeida, with things much more planned, who knows what he wants, who communicates what he wants, what needs to be done. I learned from past mistakes and situations. I'm also stronger."
In his debut in 2020 he led the race for 15 days, eventually losing the lead in the final week but staying consistent until the very last day. In 2021 he lost significant time in the opening time but surged into sixth over the final week after Remco Evenepoel abandoned, and last year he was fourth and contesting for the podium when he abandoned with a Covid-19 positive before the start of stage 18. He since went on to finish fifth at the Vuelta a Espana too, continuing a great run of consistency.
"...We have the example of the first Tour de France won by Tadej Pogacar... nobody would have thought he would win, and what is certain is that that time trial put Roglic behind and this Giro will be similar," Almeida continues, pointing out that the race can be decided in the final time-trial that goes up to Monte Lussari, a brutal ascent which averages 15% for several kilometers. "In that time trial anything can happen. In a Giro of I don't know how many thousand kilometers, those 25 kilometers are going to make a huge difference."
The route however suits the 24-year old very well, featuring around 70 kilometers of racing against the clock over three different days, and a brutal final week packed with high-mountain stages. Alongside Jay Vine and Brandon McNulty the team can do serious damage in the mountains, and enter the race in the same position as INEOS Grenadiers who bring in several cards to play in pursuit of the pink jersey.
However despite his strong time-trialing, he will need to bring his best level to contest with Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic, who are expected to be the strongest time-trialists in the race. "They have the time trial advantage. Other than in Tirreno[-Adriatico] - Roglic wasn't in the best form that day - I've never been ahead of any of them. Clearly they're going to be ahead of me in the time trial. I have a good consistency, that's my strong point, and that can make the difference," he concluded.