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João Almeida has been hotly tipped as one of the leading contenders for the Giro d’Italia and the UAE Team Emirates rider certainly has the backing of his boss Mauro Gianetti, who believes that the rider is in the conversation for overall victory.
Almeida joined UAE Team Emirates over the winter, bolstering its GC cadre and guaranteeing himself leadership at the Giro in the process.
Sixth last and fourth the year before, the 23-year-old has even made incremental gains this season with a stage win in Catalunya and a string of respectable GC results.
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“It’s a point of discovery for us as well. We saw what he could do two years ago. He had some trouble at the end but he can do well,” Gianetti told VeloNews at the recent Tour de Romandie.
“The level at the Giro d’Italia is very high and there are a lot of good riders but it’s important for him to see what his level is and if he’s improved.”
Almeida isn’t the only rider at the Giro d’Italia with aspirations of taking the maglia rosa. Although this is one of the most open editions of the race in years the field is still stacked with quality. Former winners Richard Carapaz, Vincenzo Nibali, and Tom Dumoulin are present, alongside a host of contenders including Mikel Landa, Miguel Angel Lopez, and Simon Yates.
“The GC is a goal and, as a team, we start the Giro with the idea that this is an opportunity for us to do our best and to win,” Gianetti said.
“Of course, we’re not alone in that ambition but we go into the race without pressure. We think we can do a good Giro with João. It’s all possible but there is also Carapaz, there is also Landa. The start list quality is very high and this will probably be one of the hardest Giros ever. It’s for strong riders but we think that João is young and progressing. We also think that he’s made improvements since the start of the season. We think that he can make a very good Giro. We’re very confident.”
Although not at the Giro d’Italia this year, Juan Ayuso is another young talent at UAE Team Emirates who continues to impress in his first full season at WorldTour level.
The 19-year-old scored a highly creditable fourth place on GC in the Tour of Romandie, and while the Giro and Tour de France are not on his program, there is a chance that he could make the roster for the Vuelta later in the summer.
“We’ll see,” said Gianetti.
“He’s still just 19 years old but he’s such a talent. We saw what he could do here in the Tour de Romandie without being at 100 percent. He’s certainly one for the future but it’s too early to think about the Vuelta. The season is long and we have a big responsibility to build a good future with him. We’ll let the body talk and decide as to whether he’s ready for a Vuelta. He’s not the sort of rider to arrive at a race and just watch, he’s a racer, he’s a winner. That’s why we’ll sit with him and the trainer and decide.”