João Almeida seized the race lead of the Volta a Catalunya on Friday’s stage 5 with an impressive turn of speed at an intermediate sprint but the UAE Team Emirates leader remains cautious about whether he can the overall classification on Sunday in Barcelona.
The GC classification remains intriguingly close after the first of three post-Pyrenean stages. Almeida had previously been tied on time with Nairo Quintana , but has now inches ahead thanks to his third place and one-second time bonus in the late intermediate sprint.
A year after he briefly held the lead in the Volta a Catalunya, the 23-year-old is now back in the top spot overall but with Quintana only one second behind and no less than 13 riders at less than a minute, Almeida accepts the race could well go down to the wire.
"It’s very possible that whoever wins the last stage in Barcelona wins the race overall," Almeida said.
"So many riders are close together that it’s a stage which is sure to see loads of attacks. The climb we face on each circuit [with a total of six eight-kilometre laps – Ed.] is very hard, and the drop down to the finish is really important too. The bonus seconds are sure to count for a lot."
Almeida was his usual phlegmatic self when asked about how he had managed to take the lead in the intermediate sprint, which seemingly occurred thanks to his keeping a cool head after the original plan went awry.
"Finally it worked out, […]