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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: João Almeida admits pink jersey is ‘almost impossible,’ but he’s still in podium fight

The UAE Team Emirates rider loses more than a minute to the top GC riders on stage 17 and slips off the virtual podium.

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LAVARONE, Italy (VN) — João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) is keeping his head up high, despite slipping off the Giro d’Italia’s virtual podium.

Almeida was the fourth of the major general classification riders to cross the line in a tough stage 17 to Lavarone, but he lost more than a minute on those ahead of him. That saw him slip outside of the top three, where he has been since stage 3 to Blockhaus, with Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) overtaking him into third spot.

The Portuguese 23-year-old, who still leads the youth classification, is holding out hope that his fortunes can turn around but believes that his fight for the overall win has probably passed him by for 2022.

“Everything is possible but it’s almost impossible to take the pink, but maybe the podium is possible. I still believe in it,” Almeida said. “I will give everything I have and then we will see on the finish line.”

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Almeida outlasted many of the other top 10 contenders on the final climb of the Monterovere, but he was distanced inside the final 15 kilometers as Bahrain-Victorious applied the pressure on the front of the group.

It is the second day in a row that Almeida has given time away to Richard Carapaz, Jai Hindley, and Mikel Landa after he lost 14 seconds on stage 16. The return to racing following the final rest day was a big test for the whole peloton with a total of 5,000 meters of altitude across 202km of racing.

After digging deep to hold on during Tuesday’s stage, Almeida was feeling it on the road to Lavarone.

It was compounded by having to ride the final downhill and flat section alone while the other three worked together to put as much time as possible into the UAE rider.

“Since the beginning I could feel it wasn’t my best day. I couldn’t really recover from yesterday and yesterday was a really a brutal day. I suffered today like always, but the Giro is not over yet, so let’s keep fighting,” Almeida said.

“To be honest, I didn’t lose that much time on the climb, it was more on the flat afterwards. I was just alone against three guys, which is hard, but I still managed to limit the losses, so it was not that bad.”

Mercifully for the tired GC legs, Thursday will bring a small bit of respite from the mountains as the sprinters return to the fore for the first time in almost a week.

Almeida will be hoping for a relatively easy day so that he can be totally ready for the final two mountain stages and the time trial on the last day where he is looking to regain some lost time.

“Tomorrow we should be able to recover a little bit and then we go into the mountains again,” he said. “It wasn’t really a bad day, the other guys were really just stronger than me today, which can happen a lot of times. There are still two good stages to come and the TT, so nothing is lost.”