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Almeida made his debut at the Italian grand tour in 2020. He finished fourth overall and returned last season to take sixth place.
Now coming to the race with a new team after switching from Deceuninck-Quick-Step to UAE Team Emirates over the winter, the Portuguese rider wants to up the ante this year.
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“If I don’t crash, if I don’t get sick, if I just stay healthy and I finish in the front it’s a good Giro for me. Of course, I would like to win a stage but it’s pretty hard. I just want to try and keep up in the first places and the podium is the goal. If we fail, we fail, but the point is to keep trying,” Almeida said in a pre-race press conference Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t say I feel pressure. I worked pretty hard to be here in my best shape. I’m confident but not over-confident. I’ve been doing a good season, the training has been good. I don’t feel much pressure. Of course, I feel responsibility because I have seven guys working with me for one goal and I’m going to give everything for it.”
For the first time in his young career, the 23-year-old Almeida will have the backing of a full team in his GC ambitions, with the likes of Rui Costa and Davide Formolo to support him. It’s an unusual situation for him after sharing the leadership role with Remco Evenepoel last season and going in with few big expectations back in 2020.
To help him with his new challenge, he has been taking advice from his teammate Tadej Pogačar, who has won the last two Tours de France.
“Of course, we did some training camps together and discuss everything. Sometimes grand tours and cycling come into the conversation. You just take it day by day and in the end it’s all about the legs. If you’re strong you can follow it, if you’re not then you are dropped,” he said.
This year’s Giro d’Italia has one of the most open GC fields in recent history with the overall victory seemingly anyone’s game at the moment. However, Almeida sees one rider above everyone else heading into the race, the 2019 champion Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadier), who finished second at the Volta a Catalunya earlier this year.
“Richard is the best rider here, he’s the favorite number one, I would say. In the last years, he won the Giro already, in the Vuelta he was really good. I think he’s probably the main favorite,” Almeida said. “I’m still a young boy here on the grand tours. It’s only my third one, but it’s looking good and we’re going to be conservative about it and keep an eye on everyone but especially Richard.”
Almeida will be one of the few GC riders that will be disappointed to see so few time trial kilometers at this year’s Giro d’Italia, with fewer than 30 kilometers across the three weeks. However, there will still be some opportunities to use his time trialing talents and it could well deliver him to an early pink jersey with stage 2 a 9.2km test against the clock.
While he would like to put as much time into his rivals as possible, he’s not so sure it would be the best thing for him to go into pink that early.
“It’s a short TT, let’s see how it goes we have some very good guys here. Van der Poel is a good example, he can make some very good TTs when it’s shorter, he’s very strong,” Almeida said. “Of course, it’s a scenario and I’m excited for it of course, but maybe it would be too early to get the jersey. I’m going to give it everything I have in the TT [to see] if I can take some time on the other contenders. If I get the jersey, it’s a good sign and I will be very happy with it.
“There are not many time trial kilometers this year. We have a new bike in the wind tunnel it has good numbers, and it has improved a lot compared to the old bike. I’m looking forward to using it and testing it on the road,” Almeida added.