Race leader João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) celebrates stage 4 victory at the 2021 Tour of Poland.

João Almeida dominates at the Tour of Poland

Two stage wins and a super-strong time trial helped João Almeida to his first GC victory at the Tour of Poland.

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João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) finished in the peloton on the final stage of the Tour of Poland, securing overall victory after seven days of domination in very good company.

Before taking the start in Poland last weekend, the 23-year-old’s palmarès was remarkably lightweight considering how active he’s been since signing with Deceuninck-QuickStep. In his first season he won the white jersey of best young rider at the 2020 Tour de l’Ain (a 2.1 rated stage race), before jetting off to Italy and spending fifteen days in the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia, his debut Grand Tour, eventually finishing fourth overall.

So far in 2021, Almeida has raced an exclusively WorldTour programme besides national and Olympic events. After top 10 finishes at the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya, his second Giro d’Italia ended with a slightly disappointing sixth overall. But he took some scintillating form to the national ITT championships, where he claimed his first pro victory.

Almeida’s GC credentials were already clear, but at the Tour of Poland he was finally able to take his talent to the top step of the podium.

How he did it

After stage 1’s sprint finish, stage 2 was the first chance for those with overall aspirations, and its punchy final climb – 1.5 km at 8% – was where Almeida laid his cards on the table.

The young Portuguese rider launched a daring attack near the foot of the climb and was joined by compatriot Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) a few hundred metres from the line, with Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious) in hot pursuit. Almeida accelerated again in the closing metres and he just managed to hold off Ulissi to take his first road win along with the race lead.

João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) out-sprints Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) to win stage 2 of the 2021 Tour of Poland.

Stage 3 was another one for the sprinters – won this time by Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) – and all Almeida had to do was keep an eye on his nearest rivals with only four seconds separating the top three on GC.

Another uphill finish awaited the peloton on stage 4, the climb to the Bukowina Resort offering little respite thanks to its uneven gradient averaging 7.3%. The 159.9 km stage was perhaps not as attritional as some might have hoped, and Almeida harnessed the extra watts provided by the yellow jersey to win the uphill sprint, beating Mohoric, Andrea Vendrame (AG2R-Citroën) and Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) among many other big names.

João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) wins stage 4 of the 2021 Tour of Poland.

The 23-year-old now led the race by just eight seconds, but with very little real climbing left and one of his beloved time trials on stage 6, he was in a strong position.

Stage 5 was a lumpy 172.8 km whose punchy finishing laps were well-suited to classics specialists. Almeida was put under serious pressure but he more than held his own, finishing fourth in the reduced sprint behind stage winner Nikias Arndt (Team DSM). Almeida kept the race lead, but Mohorič’s runner-up finish brought him to within seconds of the yellow jersey.

At just 19.1 km, the stage 6 ITT was unlikely to create big gaps and as a proven time trialist, all Almeida had to do was keep a cool head and stay upright – like any tried and tested GC specialist. Ultimately, only Almeida’s teammate Rémi Cavagna could beat him on the day, and the race leader strengthened his grip on yellow going into the final stage, which on paper looked like it would be a sprint.

João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) finishes his time trial effort, good enough for second on stage 6, while wearing the yellow jersey of race leader at the 2021 Tour of Poland.

In the end, the Tour of Poland was wrapped up with a breakaway victory, Julius van den Berg (EF Education-Nippo) outsmarting his fellow escapees to take the win just three seconds ahead of the peloton.

Almeida’s comfortable finish in the peloton alongside his rivals meant that he secured the overall victory, leading Mohorič by 20 seconds, Kwiatkowski a further seven seconds back in third. In one week, Almeida had scored his maiden road victory and his first general classification title, all at WorldTour level and against formidable competitors.

Two days before the start of the Tour of Poland, Almeida’s transfer to UAE Team Emirates was announced, confirming that he will join twice defending Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar from 2022. He’ll be part of a burgeoning squad that will target the biggest races in the calendar – races he’s now proved that he can fight to win.

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