Tour de l'Ain
Stage 3) Saint Vulbas - Grand Colombier
João Almeida takes Tour de l’Ain white jersey
Seven years after Julian Alaphilippe wrapped up the best young rider classification at the Tour de l’Ain, another Deceuninck – Quick-Step youngster claimed the white jersey, after an impressive ride in the mountains against the big guns. Coming into the race after a solid third overall at the Vuelta a Burgos, João Almeida demonstrated consistency and maturity over the three days of the Tour de l’Ain, which this year featured several long and bruising climbs.
This quality display brought the 22-year-old Portuguese not just the white jersey, but also a well-deserved place inside the top 10 overall, a result that began to take shape after his eye-catching ride on stage 2 to Lélex Monts-Jura. One day later, on a stage whose last 110 kilometers were an exact replica of this year’s Tour de France stage 15 and was animated by stage 1 winner Andrea Bagioli from the break, Almeida was once again up there.
After his teammate, victorious on the opening day, got caught by the ruthless favourites group, João matched the GC contenders until with eight kilometers to go, when the gradient became painfully steep and the teams at the front began pushing a searing tempo. Without panicking or going into the red, Almeida showed endless determination and grinded his way up the daunting Grand Colombier at his own pace; as a result, he managed to claw back some time before coming home completely exhausted, but inside the top 10 and with the white jersey securely on his back.
“I am really happy after today! I knew that the last climb would be very tough and steep, so for me it was just about surviving there”, said João Almeida after finishing seventh overall and becoming the first Portuguese to win the best young rider standings at the Tour de l’Ain, a result from which he took a lot of heart. “Being capable of such a strong result in the company of so many Tour de France contenders in such a demanding race is great and gives me a lot of confidence. My results and shape have been really good so far this season and I hope the trend will continue in the next races.”
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