After a general classification shake-up on stage 3 at the 2020 Giro d’Italia, a storied development program watched one of its former riders rise to top. And when João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quickstep) donned the maglia rosa,, he cemented himself in the annals of Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team history as the only other alumnus to earn a leader’s jersey in a grand tour (second after Taylor Phinney did so at the 2012 Giro).
During Monday’s stage, multiple GC contenders lost significant time and Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) emerged to take the victory. While he and Almieda had the same overall time, a tiebreaker put Almeida into the race lead due to a 0.28-second difference from the opening stage’s time trial.
Almeida was a member of Hagens Berman Axeon for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. While only two years, his progression was nothing less than remarkable.
In 2018, the Portugese rider was best young rider at Ronde de l’Isard, runner up at the U23 Giro, and victorious at Liège–Bastogne–Liège Espoirs. Later, he placed 2nd in both the individual time trial and road race at the U23 Portugese National Championships (to Axeon alumni and twin brothers Ivo and Rui Oliveira respectively).
The following year, the 21-year-old became a double U23 National Champion after winning both the road race and time trial. At the 2019 Amgen Tour of California, Almeida was third in the youth classification. At the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, he won the youth classification by over ten minutes and finished just off the podium in the overall classification.
Last year, Almeida became the 36th Axeon rider to graduate to the World Tour, joining teammates Mikkel Bjerg (UAE-Team Emirates) and Ian Garrison (Deceuninck-Quickstep) who also moved up.