Giro d’Italia: João Almeida ready to ride from under the radar into the spotlight

The best Portuguese GC prospect in a generation is taking aim for the final podium, and says Sunday's Blockhaus is a key moment of the Giro.

Photo: LUCA BETTINI/AFP via Getty Images

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NAPOLI, Italy (VN) — João Almeida is quietly treading water in this Giro d’Italia, but that’s set to change in Sunday’s climbing finale at the Blockhaus summit.

The first-category mountain deep in the Abruzzo should see the first major shakeup in the overall GC battle for the pink jersey, and Almeida is sounding confident about his chances.

“I like to be under the radar, it’s nice,” Almeida told VeloNews. “Sunday is a big day, and if you want to fight for the podium, it’s time to be ‘on’ the radar. Let’s see if I can be on the radar Sunday.”

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The 23-year-old Portuguese star on UAE-Team Emirates is poised for even more. After surviving what’s been a pretty smooth ride so far through this Giro, Almeida expects more turbulent waters Sunday.

“I think Sunday is a stage where you will see people attacking, because the next stages, I don’t there are not many chances,” Almeida said. “For the next five stages it’s not going to be that hard. Let’s see.”

Almeida went into Saturday’s circuit stage poised for more in this Giro, and started the stage seventh overall at 1:58 back, he hopes to claw higher on the overall classification.

“I feel pretty solid Friday, and that’s a good sign. Let’s see how it goes Sunday,” he said at the sunny sign-in Saturday in Napoli. “So far, everyone is going well. Yates, Carapaz, Bardet and Landa looks very good. These guys will fight for the podium.”

Almeida is back to his third straight Giro start, and his first since moving across to UAE.

After making a big splash in 2020 in his debut, when he rode the first two weeks in pink to finish fourth overall, he overcame some early setbacks last year to finish sixth against a much deeper field.

This year, he’s the outright leader at UAE that also brings a sprinter with Fernando Gaviria.

In fact, UAE is one of the few teams over the past few seasons that’s brought both a sprinter and a GC candidate to one of the grand tours.

Almeida said there’s room for everyone across the Giro.

“For me, it’s good to have a sprinter here. Fernando and Max [Richeze] are really good on the flats. And for the windy stages to protect they have much experience,” he said. “It’s good for me then, and in the big mountain stages, it’s not that many guys anyway in the end.”

So what does this Giro bring in his career evolution?

After two solid top finishes at the Giro, he’s aiming higher across the three weeks. Hyped as the best Portuguese GC rider in a generation, he also knows he’s going up against some world-class riders in this Giro.

Like he’s always done since his breakout rookie season in 2020, Almeida is keeping both feet on the ground.

“I would say the podium is a good call,” he said “It’s going to be hard, there are so many good guys here, so a podium here would be like a podium. I think going for the victory is a bit too much for me now.”

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