Tour de l'Ain
Stage 2) Lagnieu - Lélex Monts-Jura
Almeida takes over the white jersey at the Tour de l’Ain
Col de Montgriffon (12.5km, 4.1%), Col des Pezières (3.9km, 6.5%), Col de Cuvillat (3.4km, 7.4%), Côte de Giron (7.6km, 6.2%) and Col de Menthières (9.1km, 6.3%) made for a hard to digest menu at the Tour de l’Ain, reshuffling the general classification led at the start of the day by the young Andrea Bagioli, courtesy of his impressive victory on Friday.
As expected, it all kicked off on the penultimate climb, when the GC teams took over the reins and pushed a brutal tempo that shredded the peloton to pieces. In the blink of an eye, only a handful of riders where left at the front, opening a sizeable gap over the chasers, which included Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s João Almeida. The Portuguese began a furious chase and showed some great descending skills, coming close to bridging across, only for the gap to go up again once the pace-setting was ramped up at the front.
This didn’t deter the young Portuguese all-rounder – third overall last week at the Vuelta a Burgos – who continued to grit his teeth and give everything, even after being joined by a small group with ten kilometers to go. From there, Almeida took eighth place at the finish, on an unclassified climb where Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) surged to the win ahead of Egan Bernal (Ineos), same position where he finds himself after two intense days of racing at the French race.
“I felt really good today, but that final classified climb was brutal once they put down the hammer. I tried to rejoin those at the front and I came close of doing it, but the last ascent was beginning to be felt in the legs and it became a suffer-fest there”, said João, who is the new leader of the best young rider classification. “It’s another jersey for my collection, after the one I got to sport for two days at the Vuelta a Burgos. This keeps me motivated, keeps me working for the next races and shows that I did a good job in all these months without racing. Being up there with the big guns gives me a lot of confidence and hope that I will put again a strong ride on the final stage.”
Photo credit: ©Justin Setterfield / Getty Images