Giro d’Italia contender João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) did not turn the time trial of a lifetime on Sunday but the Portuguese racer remains very much a part of the GC battle after ceding just 35 seconds to stage winner Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep).
Ninth on the stage, Almeida is lying fifth at 1:07, and he was logically upbeat about his chances in the next two weeks as he warmed down outside the UAE team bus.
Barring one year when he had to quit with COVID-19, Almeida has always been a factor in the Giro d’Italia general classification battle, with sixth overall in 2021 his worst performance of three finishes.
Morale is so good that Almeida even joked that he didn’t feel like he needed the rest day on Monday, in yet another sign that he could well be up there in the Giro’s last two weeks.
“Overall I think it was pretty good, I lost a little bit of time on the corners which was an issue, and especially in the first part I wasn’t so confident,” Almeida told Cyclingnews.
“But I didn’t lose so much time to the other guys. Of course, I thought I could be up there, but it’s still a long Giro and I am in a good position.”
Rather than go all out, his strategy was to try and keep control of his time trialling “and leave some gas for the end. Maybe I left too much gas in the end and I should have started a bit faster.”
On a course rendered much more tricky due to the weather, by having long straightaways where riders built up high speeds before tackling rain-soaked bends, Almeida explained that he “could have done better on the corners, but I didn’t want to take too many risks. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
The key reference point for Almeida, like all the other participants, was Remco Evenepoel and the Portuguese rider came away satisfied that he had not lost too much time on the Belgian.
“What was it? 35 seconds, overall that’s pretty good. And we can only get better.”
The mountains are still a way off and next up is a rest day. “Actually, I don’t feel like I need one,” Almeida said with a smile, before adding, “but they’re always welcome.”
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