João Almeida pounces on Monte Bondone to take Giro d’Italia stage 16 victory
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) put in an impressive late attack on the slopes of Monte Bondone to win stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia.
The Portuguese climber launched a move with 5km to go to the line as the gradients of the final climb began to bite. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was the only other general classification favourite that was able to follow, the Welshman reclaimed the pink jersey of the race leader in the process.
Both riders put time into Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in the fight for overall victory.
After his teammate, Jay Vine, had shredded the remnants of the group of favourites, Almeida took over and soon made his move, dancing away up Monte Bondone. Sensing an opportunity, Thomas would soon follow in pursuit and looked to be the stronger of the two as the summit approached.
As they reached the final few hundred metres, Almeida had the upper hand and dispatched the Welshman in a two-up sprint for the line. Roglič finished third, losing 25 seconds on the brutal mountain stage that featured over 5,000 metres of elevation gain.
The Slovenian was able to snatch four bonus seconds with third place ahead of Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AIUla) who impressed with fourth.
Thomas now leads Almeida by 18 seconds with Roglič in third 29 seconds back.
Speaking to the media after the stage, 24-year-old Almeida said it was a “dream come true” to finally have secured a stage win at the Giro.
“I’m super happy… after four years I was always so close but so far at the same time and finally I got it,” Almeida said. “So yeah, I’m super super happy and don’t have the words to describe it.”
The Portuguese climber, who leads the best young riders classification, heaped praise on his teammates who had worked to set him up earlier on the climb. Davide Formolo and Vine were instrumental in the victory, both putting in huge turns to put the other favourites under pressure.
“My teammates were amazing, they did a really good job like always and I tried to give it a go in the end,” he added. “It was a super hard day, always up and down, for the legs it was super hard. I would say it was the hardest so far, but I was feeling good.”
On paper, attacking with more than five kilometres to go appeared to be a bold move. However, Almeida explained that he had faith in his legs and knew he had the ability to see it through to the end.
“I took a risk to go for it, if you don’t try then you never know,” he said. “I tried and I managed to achieve it so I’m very very happy and so thankful to my team, to my family, my girlfriend and everyone that supports me and believes in me. It’s very special for me.”
Almeida’s late move caused a huge stir amongst the overall favourites in the first general classification shake up at this year’s Giro. Despite being tracked by Geraint Thomas in the closing stages, Almeida said he had taken heart from his performance and vowed to try again in the fight for pink in the mountain stages still to come.
“Yeah, like I’ve always said, I’ll always try to go for more. If I feel good, I’ll always attack,” Almeida added. “I’ll always fight until the end and always give everything that I have.”
RESULTS GIRO D'ITALIA STAGE 16: SABBIO CHIESE - MONTE BONDONE (203 KM)
1. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, in 05-53-27
2. Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 25s
4. Edward Dunbar (Ire) jayco-AIUla, at same time
5. Sepp Kuss (Usa) Jumbo-Visma, at 01-03
6. Ilan Van Wilder (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step, at 01-16
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious,
8. Einer Augusto Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar,
9. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers,
10. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, all at same time
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 16
1. Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, in 67-32-35
2. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 18s
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 29s
4. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 02-50
5. Edward Dunbar (Ire) Jayco-AIUla, at 03-03
6. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 03-20
7. Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 03-22
8. Andreas Leknessund (Nor) DSM, at 03-30
9. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, at 04-09
10. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers, at 04-32