There is more than one double act at this Giro d’Italia. The anticipated duel between Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič has dominated the countdown to the Grande Partenza, but the dual leaders at UAE Team Emirates could yet insert themselves into the conversation between here and Rome.
João Almeida is already a youthful veteran of the Giro, placing fourth overall as a neo-professional in 2020 when he also carried the maglia rosa for more than two weeks. Jay Vine, three years his senior, is far less versed in the ways of the Grand Tours, but then the Australian is only beginning to tap the potential that belatedly carried him to the WorldTour.
Vine and Almeida have yet to race together, and it remains to be seen how readily they will dovetail out on the road, but off the bike, they already seem to complement one another just fine. Almeida is generally a man of few, though unfailingly polite, words, while Vine is among the peloton’s best raconteurs.
In UAE’s pre-race press conference on Friday afternoon, Almeida seemed glad to have his more expansive teammate for company. “I just agree with what Jay said,” he smiled after the Australian had taken the lead when they were both asked for an assessment of Saturday’s opening time trial.
They were on the same page, too, when it came to assessing their prospects of upsetting the expected duopoly over the next three weeks. Almeida placed third overall behind Roglič and Evenepoel at the Volta a Catalunya in March. He saw enough there to appreciate that their status as favourites for the Giro d’Italia was entirely merited, yet he does not set out defeated.
“I mean, I think Remco and Roglič are for sure the favourite ones. They have shown they are the very strongest guys,” Almeida began. “But the Giro race is long, and anything can happen. I’m aiming for the podium, but let’s keep the flow and see how things go.”
Vine picked up the thread, noting an encouraging historical precedent. The last time Roglič raced the Giro, in 2019, his duel with Vincenzo Nibali was bypassed by eventual winner Richard Carapaz, who had formed part of an underrated Movistar tandem with Mikel Landa.
“We saw a non-favourite in Carapaz win the Giro a few years ago,” Vine said. “He was in the same situation. I mean, strange things can happen in the Giro d’Italia…”
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