Giro d’Italia stage 14 verdict: Joao Almeida uses time trial in Prosecco country to stretch lead in pink jersey

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Joao Almeida celebrates retaining the pink jersey - AFPJoao Almeida celebrates retaining the pink jersey - AFP
Joao Almeida celebrates retaining the pink jersey – AFP

Surprise leader Joao Almeida extended his overall lead at the Giro d’Italia as Flippo Ganna romped to another time-trial victory.

Almeida [Deceuninck-QuickStep], 22, has been the big find of this year’s race. Riding in the first grand tour of his career, the Portuguese has held the lead since a strong effort up Mount Etna on stage three. 

Only one more week now remains before the race ends in Milan next weekend, although Almeida himself has admitted he has no idea how his body will react to a third consecutive week of racing, especially with some huge climbs, including the infamous Stelvio Pass and the Colle dell’Agnello and Col d’Izoard, all well over 2000m, to come. 

Almeida still looks very strong, however. And with pre-race favourites Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates having abandoned due to injury and Covid-19 respectively, it feels like a wide-open race. 

There is also the possibility the race could be called off before we reach Milan due to rising Covid rates across Europe. Two teams have already pulled out and a number of riders and teams have expressed concerns.

Almeida finished sixth in Saturday’s 34.1km effort against the clock through Prosecco vineyards from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, taking 16 seconds out of the man behind him in the overall classification, Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), who came ninth on the day. 

Almeida’s lead over Kelderman now stands at 56 seconds, with Pello Bilbao [Bahrain-McLaren] third, 2min 11sec back. British rider Tao Geoghegan Hart [Ineos Grenadiers] moved up to 11th overall ahead of the return to the mountains on Sunday. 

No one could touch Ganna on Saturday, however. The recently-crowned world time trial champion has been in sensational form in this race. The 24 year-old won the prologue time trial in Sicily a fortnight ago before winning solo on stage five. 

And he was too good for everyone once again, his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Rohan Dennis the only man to finish within a minute of him, at 26 seconds.

“Every victory is important for me and in this Giro we have a really strong team, we are winning from everywhere and we are really happy,” Ganna said. “In the start I felt OK, we had a one kilometre climb, but it was five minutes of climbing and it was not easy, but once I got past the climb the legs felt good and as I got closer to the end they felt better and better.

“In the final week I hope the climbs will be sunny and not too cold – but the aim will be to save energy and recover well as there is still one more time trial remaining in Milan.”