UAE Team Emirates endured a tough day out on the road to Melfi on stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia, with their GC hopeful João Almeida forced to mount a late, desperate chase after a crash and key rider Brandon McNulty shedding almost five minutes after working for his team leader.
The Portuguese champion, who finished fourth on his Grand Tour debut at the race three years ago, went down in a crash 15km from the end of the stage, which saw Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) sprint to the win ahead of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).
He and several UAE teammates help him back to the reduced peloton over the next five kilometres and he eventually finishing with the group of 57 that crossed the line together. However it was a moment of fear and panic at UAE Team Emirates and a minor missed opportunity.
Just as he got back in the peloton, Almeida lost three seconds to maglia rosa Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) and two to Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) as the pair dominated the final intermediate sprint of the stage, collecting three and two seconds respectively.
“It wasn’t a perfect day,” Almeida said later. “A guy crashed in front of me, so I went on the ground. I went back on the bike immediately and, luckily, I had my teammates there to help me to come back, otherwise, I would never be back.
“Now I’ll recover from the crash and try to keep my level. Hopefully, we can keep the podium anyway.”
While Almeida lives to fight another day and recover from the late bump, McNulty – a potential card for the team to play in the GC fight as he lay a minute down at the start of the stage – is now well out of the picture.
The American lost 4:40 after dropping late in the stage having played a key role in helping Almeida get back to the peloton. He’s now in 75th overall at 5:43 down on Evenepoel.
“I don’t know how the crash happened, but they touched and went down. It all happened really quickly,” UAE sports manager Matxin Joxean Fernández said after the stage.
“We can only thank Brandon McNulty, Diego Ulissi and Davide Formolo who helped João get back on quickly. Most importantly they didn’t take too many risks in a very technical part of the race.
“We were hoping to go for the time bonus. We didn’t do that but João didn’t lose any time and is still second overall – that’s the important thing.”
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