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The Giro d’Italia enters its final decisive week with five riders knotted up within 61 seconds of the pink jersey.
That will likely shake up quite a bit with four grueling mountain stages between here and Verona, but could the final time trial decide the final winner?
UAE Team Emirates sports director Fabio Baldato said that overnight leader Richard Carapaz will be safe if he carries a lead of one minute into the final 17.4-kilometer time trial in and around Verona.
“Carapaz can do a great time trial on that course,” Baldato told VeloNews. “I think with a maximum gap of one minute he can be safe in the final time trial.”
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- Almeida: ‘The Giro podium would be a dream’
That data point is especially relevant for UAE Team Emirates, which brings João Almeida into the final week poised for the podium or perhaps even more.
Almeida started Tuesday’s 16th stage hovering in third at 30 seconds back.
On paper, Almeida is a better time trialist against Carapaz. The Portuguese rider used his TT prowess to go far in the 2020 Giro in his grand tour debut, when he wore pink for two weeks and finished fourth overall.
The pair has only raced against each other twice in time trials. The first came in the 2021 Volta a Catalunya, when Almeida took 52 seconds out of Carapaz in an 18.5km TT in a very similar course.
The second occasion came in this Giro in the stage 2 TT to the Budapest Castle, when Almeida took 10 seconds to Carapaz in the short, explosive 9.2km course.
“The time trial course is the same we saw three years ago and it’s not so easy,” Baldato said. “There is a climb halfway through, and it’s a very fast, technical descent. There are maybe six kilometers downhill, so it’s harder to make up differences against a rider like Carapaz.”
Baldato said the team’s tactic is simple enough: keep Carapaz on as short as leash as possible, and then try to finish him off in the final time trial.
“It would be nice to keep Carapaz at the 30-second gap,” Baldato said. “But there is so much climbing to come, and there will be more big changes.”
Even if Almeida isn’t racing for the win, a podium spot could well be in play.
“The final time trial in a grand tour is also about who has the freshest legs after so much racing,” Baldato said. “With the big mountains, everyone is expecting the Giro to be decided the day before. We hope not.”
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) May 24, 2022