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CUNEO, Italy (VN) – UAE Team Emirates leader João Almeida says he is eager for the Giro d’Italia’s GC battle to begin in earnest this weekend after almost a week since the last contest between the favorites, at the Blockhaus last Sunday, where the Portuguese rider finished in the front group and jumped to second overall. Although he’s since dropped a place in the standings as a result of Ineos Grenadier Richard Carapaz snaffling three bonus seconds on stage 11 into Reggio Emilia, Almeida remains just 12 seconds off the lead.
Asked by VeloNews about a comment made by Ineos deputy principal Rod Ellingworth that the GC race hasn’t really started yet, Almeida said he essentially agreed with this. “It’s basically a little bit true. We’ve only had the Blockhaus, nothing else,” he said. “Other than that, there’s not really been a GC race. So it’s been a bit boring to be honest.
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“All of the mountains are in the last stages. I think it would be nicer if they were spread out a bit more. But it is what it is. There have been some hard days out there for everybody. But it’s just a pity that there’s not been more GC days.”
That is set to change this weekend with stages into Turin on Saturday and Cogne on Sunday that should bring the GC battle front and center. Almeida said the first of those stages has the look of a Classic and will be extremely fast and taxing. “I suspect that it’s going to make a difference the day after. The Turin stage is just such a hard day that the Cogne stage will be tougher because of that. So, it could well be that somebody in the GC battle will struggle,” said the UAE leader.
Almeida says his knowledge of Sunday’s finale at Cogne is limited to what he’s seen in the Garibaldi, the Giro’s roadbook. “I looked in there and the end isn’t that steep. It climbs quite slowly. But it will still be tough because the climbs that come before it are hard,” he explained.
Fourth overall two years when he led the Giro for 15 days, Almeida is confident of sustaining his challenge for the maglia rosa into the back end of the final week. “I think I’m in really good shape. I just need to have a good day, a normal day today into, and I think I’ll be fine for the weekend. I can’t wait for it,” he affirmed.