João Almeida: “Wearing the pink jersey for 15 days felt amazing!”

João Almeida: “Wearing the pink jersey for 15 days felt amazing!”

Tuesday 22 December 2020 - 11:33

The 22-year-old Portuguese talked about his unforgettable Giro d’Italia and how that experience helped him improve.

At the start of the season, I wasn’t supposed to do the Giro d’Italia and I only found out that I would go there some two months before the race, after the season got underway again in August. I won’t hide that, at that point, I was in a good condition, as underscored by my Vuelta a Burgos and Giro dell’Emilia podiums, but I didn’t have any expectations for the Giro.

Ok, I was pretty confident and motivated, but never in my wildest dreams would I have dreamed of being on the podium on my first ever Grand Tour stage. To finish runner-up in the Palermo individual time trial was insane, with so many strong time trialists in the race, but that ride gave me wings and made me think that I could end up in the pink jersey in a couple of days, knowing that Ganna wasn’t a climber.

It happened just 48 hours later, on Mount Etna, after a tough day with a lot of rain and wind near the top, but it was worth it. The team was amazing, I gave everything to try and take the jersey, and when I got word that I had managed it for the smallest of margins I was stunned – I just couldn’t believe it. From that point on, I got to experience an astonishing 15 days in the overall lead and I can tell you that every single time I had that iconic jersey on my shoulders I felt a huge confidence boost, motivation and responsibility.

One of my best days was on the Piancavallo, where I felt incredibly strong and climbed effortlessly, retaining the pink jersey as we concluded the second week. I lost it a couple of days later, on the Stelvio – another stage I’ll never forget – but not because I was weak, but because others were stronger. I emptied myself there, but it was a bit too long and too hard, especially as it came after several demanding days that really took their toll on me.

Despite that, I carried on and managed to finish fourth overall, which was massive for my first Grand Tour participation. I was happy and proud in Milan, where I was joined by my family, feeling that this three-week journey had helped me improve a lot mentally and become much stronger. I also felt privileged to have enjoyed this incredible adventure together with an outstanding team, a great group of guys who turned themselves inside out for me and contributed to my unforgettable 15 consecutive days in the maglia rosa.

 

Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images

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