João Almeida has recognized climbing and race craft as two key pillars of his Grand Tour growth, as he units his sights on each the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España in his first season with UAE Staff Emirates.
The Portuguese 23-year-old has solely been an expert for 2 years however has already established himself as a three-week contender with back-to-back top-six finishes on the Giro.
After spending 15 days within the chief’s pink jersey earlier than ending fourth within the late-season 2020 version, he did the other and got here from exterior the highest 10 to position sixth final Could.
On each events, he bolstered his total end result towards the clock however should adapt as he as soon as once more makes the Italian Grand Tour the focus of his season, with a 2022 route that options simply 26km of particular person time trialling.
“Extra time trialling could be ultimate for me, however it’s what it’s,” Almeida informed reporters from a pre-season staff coaching camp in Spain.
“Ultimately, there’s numerous climbing, however total within the Grand Excursions, the primary choices are made on the climbs. With the time trials, you get one or two spots distinction, so you may enhance your place, however total it’s the climbs that make the largest distinction.”
Together with his swap from QuickStep to UAE Staff Emirates, Almeida says he has “mainly modified all the things”, from his bike and tools to his coaching and vitamin plans. He’s now working with Iñigo San Millán, who additionally coaches his new teammate Tadej Pogačar and is already shaking issues up.
“The coaching plan is completely different to the one I used to be used to with my outdated coach at QuickStep. The efforts I do, the kind of coaching and the strategy to races is completely different to what I’m used to however I’m feeling good with it, so I believe it’s a constructive factor,” Almeida stated.
He was reluctant to enter specifics, arguing that “coaching is kind of a private factor” however did point out that enhancing uphill could be the precedence.
“With a Giro like this, in fact, I’ll focus extra on climbing and never a lot on the TT.”
The opposite space the place Almeida sees room for enchancment is in his racecraft. Even when it’s not one thing that may essentially be coached, he defined that his two appearances on the Giro have taught him helpful classes.
“I’ve made a couple of errors. Generally, I might assault for no purpose in any respect, so possibly I needs to be extra conservative generally. However different occasions possibly I wanted to assault extra.
“You possibly can by no means be too sensible or too clever. With the ability to learn the race higher, to know the opponents… that comes naturally, race after race with expertise. Up to now I’ve been doing good however there’s all the time quite a bit to be taught and enhance so we’re right here for that as effectively.”
Almeida will make his debut for his new staff at their ‘residence’ race, the UAE Tour, in February, alongside Pogačar and the cream of the staff’s expertise. He’ll go on to journey Paris-Good and the Tour of Catalunya, with an altitude coaching camp to precede one other closing outing forward of the beginning of the Giro in Hungary on Could 6.
After the Giro, Almeida will flip his consideration to the Vuelta a España, as he seems to journey two Grand Excursions in a single season for the primary time in his profession.
“The plan is to do the Giro and Vuelta this 12 months. After all, we have now to see how I really feel, however that’s the plan, and I believe I’ll be capable of do it,” he stated.
Let’s see what staff we take to the Vuelta. It’s fairly a great distance off however we will take a robust staff there.”
Almeida wasn’t positive if he’d be sharing management duties with Pogačar, regardless of the Tour de France champion indicating his intentions to move to the Vuelta after gunning for a 3rd yellow jersey. Almeida, who has signed a five-year deal at UAE, clearly sees himself as a separate chief, with a separate assist group, fairly than a luxurious domestique to the Slovenian star, however insisted he was completely happy to be sharing a jersey.
“I really feel excellent with this. It will likely be a pleasure to race with Tadej. He’s probably the greatest cyclists ever – not simply for the time being. With the ability to race with him, be taught from him, and assist him attain good outcomes and win races… it’s good to be part of and it provides me motivation for the longer term.”
As for his personal ambitions, he revealed that compatriot Rui Costa, the 2013 world champion, is among the many group of riders set to encompass him on the Giro and different races the place he shoulders management tasks.
“The staff reveals numerous confidence in me. I’m nonetheless younger, and having a staff like this give me a purpose like this reveals they actually belief me,” Almeida stated.
“I’ve staff round me. One is Rui Costa, who can also be Portuguese. We’ve been coaching collectively and growing our relationship so we will have it within the races, and the identical for different riders, too. I’m nonetheless younger and might all the time be taught from the blokes who’re extra skilled than me.
“I’m having fun with being with the staff, it’s been a very constructive change. The one factor I can promise is that I’m going to work actually arduous to be in the most effective form, making all of the sacrifices and doing all the things I can achieve this we will go and attempt to attain our targets.”