This time a year ago in the Volta a Catalunya , João Almeida was ruing the loss of the leader’s jersey after Ineos Grenadiers ripped the race apart on the two main mountain stages.
In the lead after the day two time trial in 2021, Almeida dropped to third on the first mountain stage to Valter 2000, won by Adam Yates, then seventh, his final position overall, on stage three at Port Ainé.
This time round, though, Almeida is with UAE Team Emirates and has shown a very different kind of performance in the mountains, outsprinting climbing stars of the calibre of Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) for the stage win.
The lead, though, remains just out of the Portuguese racer’s grasp, with Quintana edging ahead of him on points. But despite the three stages remaining being far from mountainous, Almeida told reporters afterwards he’s confident he can try for the overall win.
“Of course, everything is possible right until the end and we’ll do our best,” Almeida said. “I’ve been in this kind of situation before, and even if the stages that come are not so hard, I’ll be trying all the way through to the end.”
Perhaps unwilling to show what his strategy might be in such a finely-balanced competition for the overall, Almeida refused to be drawn on which of the three remaining stages, from Friday’s long grind down to the coast to Saturday’s tough grind through the sierras of southern Catalunya and then on to Sunday’s relentless series […]