There’s the Vuelta. João Almeida is frontrunner but refuses favoritism

The 77th edition of the Vuelta a España will be on the road on Friday. For 21 days (from August 19 to September 11), the peloton will roam the Spanish roads – and beyond – in the last major cycling race of the season. Portuguese João Almeida, 24, will make his debut in the league and soon to head the UAE Team Emirates, replacing Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.

Despite the season not going well, as he had to leave the Giro d’Italia due to covid-19, when he was in the top places, João Almeida starts the Vuelta with the motivation to have won the last stage of the Volta a Burgos , a race where it finished second overall. Having already shown his worth in short races, the young Portuguese cyclist dreams of triumph in a grand tour, with the best result so far of fourth place in the 2020 Giro.

João Almeida has already understood that it will not be this one yet, as the cyclist from Caldas da Rainha said at the press conference before the start of the Vuelta that he was ready “to fight for the general”, but warned: “I didn’t feel super-boned, but I’m going to try everything, I’m going to give everything. I don’t have any expectations or a big goal, like making a podium, but I’m going to give everything I have”. Almeida also recalled that “it’s part of cycling” to not always be in top form, although he admitted he was “very excited to start the Vuelta”.

Favorite Roglic to make history

In a team of 176 riders, Nélson Oliveira (Movistar) and Ivo Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates) complete the group of Portuguese in the race. But as João Almeida initially declined the role of favorite to conquer the Vuelta, despite not being completely thrown out of the fate of candidates for victory, the main favorites to triumph will be in other teams.

The biggest favorite is Slovenian Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), who is looking for the unprecedented achievement of winning the race in four consecutive years. After withdrawing from the Tour early in the race – due to injury and in preparation for the Vuelta a España – the Slovenian cyclist has been identified as the main target for shooting, although his physical condition may not be ideal is. “With the absence of Pogacar, Roglic is the main favourite. He is a strong rider in practically all kinds of stages”says Alberto Contador, in statements to DN.

Belgian Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) is in the same situation as João Almeida: he has already shown his strength in one-day classics and one-week events (including the Volta ao Algarve), but he still didn’t know to win a big round. . According to Contador, a former Spanish cyclist and now Eurosport commentator, Evenepoel will be “focused more on winning stages than on aiming for an overall triumph”.

Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers) will also be present and given the profile of this edition of the Vuelta with seven mountain stages and two high finishes, it is possible that he will compete for the red shirt (symbol of leader). This year, the Ecuadorian – who was able to ride his last big lap in the Vuelta for Ineos – led the way until the last part of the Giro, after losing the pink jersey to Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), another favorite to the Vuelta, and would want revenge.

Alberto Contador puts another name in the equation: Simon Yates, who won the Vuelta in 2018. “He knows what it’s like to win the league and they will be Roglic’s two main rivals next to Carapaz,” he emphasized.

first week demanding

Similar to what happened with the Tour de France (which started in Denmark) and the Giro d’Italia (which started in Hungary), the start of this edition of the Vuelta a España will take place abroad, with the Netherlands completing the first three stages. is organizing.

And the news comes right at the start, with a time trial by teams, something that has not happened in the last editions of the Vuelta. There are two stages to reach the sprint, practically flat. The first rest day (August 22) coincides exactly with the arrival on Spanish soil. In the Basque Country, where the fourth stage begins, there will be a medium mountain race, allowing those involved in a breakaway to prevail. With a length of more than one hundred kilometers, the stretch connecting Vitória-Gasteiz to Laguardia has two mountain counts (one for the second and the other for the third category in the last stretch). In addition, Contador explains, “there are five new endings, which ultimately influence the next phases”. “In theory, the hardest days can be calmer than you think, and at the same time, the quietest days can complicate everything.”

With a very demanding first week (most stages being medium or high mountain) in the north of Spain, the second rest day is in the south, in Alicante, for a 30km individual time trial, starting from Elche. Two days later, the first high-rise finish appears, in Estepona, on a mostly flat stage but with a very sharp final climb.

The second final in height takes place four days before the end of the Tour and for three consecutive mountain stages, starting in Trujillo, Talavera de la Reina and Moralzarzal. As usual, the 21st and final stage should serve as an initiation on arrival in Madrid.

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Author: Rui Miguel Godinho

Source: El heraldo