Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
Stage 7) Barcelona - Barcelona
Spain Sunday 28 March 2021 133 km
Almeida finishes seventh at Volta a Catalunya
The 100th edition of the Volta a Catalunya came to an end Sunday afternoon with a circuit-based stage around Montjuic, the famous hill which was the center-stage at the 1973 World Championships. Just like back then, also this time it made for some tremendous racing, inspiring a large group featuring Josef Cerny and James Knox to go clear and put a maximum gap of five minutes between them and the peloton.
The chasers had their own GC fight, which started quite early, with João Almeida snatching two seconds at the first intermediate sprint of the day, so it soon became clear the stage victory would be an affair between the escapees. James Knox tried to be in the mix, but the stinging attacks that came on the Montjuic – which this year included some new ramps, kicking up to 17% – split the group and let only two riders in the front, who went on to fight for victory on the last ascent of Barcelona’s iconic hill.
On the penultimate circuit, several teams ramped up the pace and split the bunch, only twenty men – including Almeida – making it over the top. Several skirmishes ensued between them, but none were powerful enough to dispatch riders, so the group concluded around two minutes down on the winner, and the general classification remained unchanged, which meant that João took an impressive seventh at his first Volta a Catalunya participation.
It was a well-deserved reward for the 22-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider, who also topped the overall standings for one day this week – becoming the first Portuguese in 57 years to lead the race – and earned himself a visit to the podium in Barcelona, to collect the best young rider jersey, which he took over following his remarkable ride in the Banyoles individual time trial.
Third in the UAE Tour, sixth at Tirreno-Adriatico two weeks ago and now seventh at the Volta a Catalunya make up for an excellent start to the season for the Caldas da Rainha native, who continued to impress with his skills, tenacity and remarkable consistency, delivering a new series of performances hard to ignore.
“This final stage was a hard one, but I felt good today and I even tried to do something so I could move up the GC, but it wasn’t possible. In the finale, I remained attentive and followed all the big moves, and eventually I came home with all the other guys”, said João, who scored Portugal’s best result in 35 years at the Volta a Catalunya. “It’s been a solid race for me and I draw a lot of confidence from it and the way we rode as a team, which bodes well for the future Being consistent across all kinds of stages – from the time trial to the high mountains makes me confident that other good results will follow this spring. I had a great time here and I’m happy with my third consecutive top 10 in a World Tour stage race and with taking home the white jersey.”
Photo credit: ©David Ramos/Getty Images