After scoring his first victory for UAE-Team Emirates on stage four of the Volta a Catalunya, João Almeida admitted relief in doing so and revealed that he has grown as a bike rider in just the few months he has been employed by the team.
The 23-year-old joined the Tour de France winners in the winter after two successful years at Deceuninck-QuickStep where he emerged as one of the sport's most exciting climbers and general classification riders, most memorably leading the Giro d'Italia in 2020 for two weeks.
Almeida finished fifth at the UAE Tour in February, which was won by his teammate Tadej Pogačar, and then finished eighth at Paris-Nice before winning a three-man summit finish sprint at the ski station of Boí Taüll on Thursday.
It was only the seventh win of his burgeoning career, and he said afterwards that he has noticed an improvement in his performance since joining his new team.
"Of course they are two different teams and we cannot really compare it, but in my case I am really happy with the change I did and for me it was better," he said.
"I think it's the same support: at QuickStep they supported me in the same way as they support me here, but now I think it was the best thing for me to make the change for myself. I have been finding myself really well and I am happy with my decision.
"For sure, since the winter I feel way stronger than before. I think I am going in the right way for my future."
Almeida signed a five-year contract with UAE, with he, Pogačar and Spanish sensation Juan Ayuso all set to be with the team in 2025 - a clear indication as to who the trio is that they believe can win Grand Tours in the forthcoming years.
But, first, just to break his winning duck for the team was important. "Of course it means a lot," he smiled . "It's been a good season so far starting with the UAE Tour which Tadej won, although Paris-Nice wasn't great as I had some bad luck.
"I was really anxious for the victory with the new colours and I got it here. It was a good race so I'm super happy.
"We had George [Bennett] in the front so it was a perfect scenario for us: we just had to ride in the wheel and then I was feeling pretty good since the beginning of the climb, so I just decided to attack. I did a little attack at my own pace and then it worked."
Almeida is second on GC but level on seconds with Nairo Quintana. "Everything is possible until the end," he said. "We'll do what we can do."
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