Joao Almeida took his first victory in the colours of UAE Team Emirates, with an emphatic win on stage 4 of the Volta Catalunya.
Almeida out-sprinted the duo of Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the hilly finale, pushing the pace on from far out to drop the race leader Ben O’ Connor (Ag2r-Citroen) in the process.
It was an aggressive display again by the Emirati squad with Marc Soler infiltrating the early break and later George Bennett going clear on the final climb, forcing the other teams to chase.
Young Juan Ayuso finished closely behind the winner in 6th place, showing good form in his first ever World Tour stage race outing.
Almeida becomes the 10th different rider from UAE Team Emirates to taste victory this season with the overall win tally now up to 21.
The Portuguese now leads the young riders classification heading into stage 5 from La Pobla de Segur to Vilanova i la Geltrú (206.3km) and sits 2nd in the GC behind Quintana at the same time as the Colombian.
Joao Almeida said, “I’m super happy. I’ve been working for this for a long time. Today I had some bad luck at the beginning but I felt really good at the end. I was always controlling my effort on the last climb, we had Bennett up the road so it was perfect for us behind as we just had to ride on the wheel. I upped the pace in the last couple of kilometres and sprinted to the victory. There are some hard stages coming up, especially the last one but we are happy with how it’s going for us.”
In Italy Marc Hirschi continued his strong return with 3rd place on stage 3 of Coppi & Bartali in San Marino (147km).
The Swiss went clear on the final climb with a duo of riders from Ineos-Grenadiers with Ben Tulett eventually prevailing.
Hirschi said, “It was really hard, as every day has been here at Coppi & Bartali. Myself and Polanc tried to make things difficult for the others on the last laps and then I attacked at the bottom of the last climb. I couldn’t get rid of the Ineos riders who were very strong. I’m happy with 3rd place but the other guys were just too good today. Overall I’m very happy – it’s a long time since I’ve felt so comfortable on the bike, maybe 2 or 3 years. For me it’s more enjoyable to ride like this and I know that getting the operation was the right thing to do.”
Volta Catalunya stage 4 results
1.Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) 4:20:27
2.Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) s.t
3.Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) s.t
Volta Catalunya general Classification after stage 4
1.Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 17:04:53
2.Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) s.t
3.Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) +6”
Coppi & Bartali stage 3 results
1.Ben Tulett (Ineos-Grenadiers) 4:12:34
2.Eddie Dunbar (Ineos-Grenadiers) +3’’
3.Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) +5’’
Coppi & Bartali general classification after stage 3
1. Eddie Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) 12:37:11
2. Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) +9’’
3.Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) +24’’