João Almeida is facing off Remco Evenepoel at the Giro d'Italia and both are among the big contenders. The Portuguese recalls the 2021 Giro where the two teamed up however none achieved success, and he discusses some of the talk that took place at the time surrounding a possible internal battle.
"There's no such thing as pickiness, the little that might have happened - the public magnifies the situation - was resolved in those days at the Giro," the Portuguese reveals in an interview with TopCycling.pt. At the time Almeida came from a breakthrough Giro where he led throughout much of the race, and Evenepoel was racing for the first time after his Il Lombardia crash. Quick-Step opted to have the Portuguese ride in support of Evenepoel following a big time loss on the opening week, a choice that made some fans very critical and vocal.
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That culminated at the Monte Zoncolan stage where Evenepoel would struggle and Almeida stayed with him. The World Champion would later on in the race abandon, whilst Almeida surged in the final week to climb into sixth place. "We acted as a team and at the time we made the decisions with the information we had and we made a good decision."
"Of course now looking back we would change everything, but in the end it's easy to judge... And he's not that individualistic and jealous either. Maybe he would have given me more of a chance that day knowing that I wasn't going to be well." In the meantime Evenepoel has developed into a Grand Tour winner, taking the victory at the Vuelta a Espana last summer and coming to the Corsa Rosa fresh off a victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"He is a rider who is pure strength and if he is strong he attacks. Roglic is more meticulous, more experienced, plays more defensive while Remco plays attacking and brute force. Those gestures are a way of trying to get into Roglic's head to get him to pull, keep urging him to pull and him trying to gain the advantage with Roglic's attrition," the 24-year old analyses. "He is a much more mature rider, tactically he is much better, he has grown a lot in that sense, but he will always be a brute force rider."
Almeida believes that the pressure from outside on the two, and their own rivalry - which saw both very balanced at the Volta a Catalunya - can weight down on them and benefit the rest. "Both situations are good. It's good to let them be contesting the race, wearing each other down. Roglic is more meticulous, as I said. He plays more defensively and when he attacks he doesn't attack just because he wants to. Both situations work in my favor."