Young Portuguese refused to give up on Sunday’s brutal stage and made it 13 consecutive days in the overall lead.
João Almeida continued to defy expectations at the Giro d’Italia on the race’s hardest climb so far, Piancavallo (14.5 kilometers, 7.8%), which the race visited for just the third time in history. The 22-year-old from Caldas da Rainha, riding his first Grand Tour, was in a world of pain on the last of the day’s four classified ascents, but showed an impressive ability to suffer and an amazing resilience, managing to keep hold of the pink jersey.
Overall leader since the beginning of the first week, João was distanced after a huge forcing of the rival teams on the toughest part of Piancavallo, with a shy over seven kilometers to go, but fought admirably to limit the losses and make sure he wouldn’t lose the 56-second buffer with which he started the day following his sensational time trial in Valdobbiadene.
The most consistent rider in the race, having never finished outside the top 25 on any of the stages, Almeida proved again he is a worthy race leader, gritting his teeth, riding with his heart not just his legs, and producing an out-of-this-world effort on the gruelling gradients to the top. There, Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Grand Tour rookie finished just outside the podium, completely exhausted but happy knowing he retained the maglia rosa, which on Tuesday he will wear for the 13th consecutive day.
“I was expecting for the others to attack today, so that wasn’t a surprise. You could see that the tempo was very high from the start of the climb and many riders got dropped early. I was well positioned, thanks to an amazing job of my team – without whom I wouldn’t be where I am now – and after getting distanced, I just rode my own pace and pushed the limits, but without going into the red.”
“I wouldn’t go as far as saying I had a bad day, it’s just you can’t always be flawless. It was the hardest stage of the race so far, a proper sufferfest and having survived it gives me a lot of joy and confidence. I will now enjoy the rest day and then continue to leave everything out there as I will try to hold the pink jersey”, João said after the podium ceremony.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images