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Almeida shines in Boí Taüll with a Nairo who dresses as a leader

Almeida brilla en Boí Taüll con un Nairo que se viste de líder

UAE continues to dominate this season, because beyond Pogacar they have a high-level team. This time it was Joao Almeida who opened his locker in 2022 with a brilliant victory in Boï Taüll in which he pulled from the group of favorites in the decisive part of the climb… and even so he had enough strength to prevail in a reduced sprint to the Colombian duo Nairo and Higuita. Of course, Nairo becomes the leader by position meter with respect to Almeida, so contrary to what it might seem, the race is still very open after the two mountain stages. That’s already 21 UAE victories this season, more than anyone else (second is the Quick Step with 15). Juan Ayuso and Carlos Rodríguez gave way with 2km to go, and shortly after, until the then leader O’Connor, who said goodbye to the precious garment. There is still a long way to go until Barcelona.

At the start of La Seu d’Urgell, there were numerous runners who, without participating in the race, got off from Andorra, where they live, to see the start. Among them, Dan Martin and David de la Cruz. Only 20 kilometers separate the Principality from the start this Thursday in the Pyrenees. The Ineos, low after Sivakov’s abandonment, saw how Daniel Felipe Martínez also arrived, at full speed in his training, coming down from Andorra, to the town of Lleida. They greeted their colleagues and the day started without the expected rain, although with freezing temperatures. He did it with a smiling O’Connor as the leader and with Ayuso in the white jersey as a youngster: “I’m enjoying myself and learning. Whatever happens, it will be a great experience,” he said before starting.

It was the queen stage of this Volta, with three first class ascents, being the highlight in the second half, chaining the ascents to the Creu de Perves and, after a small descent and later flat, the final ascent to Boï Taüll, a summit that was crowned in the Volta 20 years later and that in the past had winners such as Chava Jiménez and Chiappuci. It was in the first port, the Coll de Boixols, when the break was formed, and with renowned people: Marc Soler, Jesús Herrada, Hugh Carthy, Mikel Bizkarra (for the second day in a row) and Mark Donovan. The most dangerous for O’Connor’s leadership, due to proximity in the general, was Soler, and Movistar gave the head of the pack to Ag2r so that they would take charge of lowering a rent that came to be three minutes.

In the second ascent, Soler stayed… but the reality was that he was playing, because then he recovered to try to crown in first place (he was 2nd after Herrada) and took the intermediate sprint. Almiral was the last to be hunted by a Bennett who jumped out of the pack. The Frenchman, even so, held the wheel for a few kilometers.

Arkea toughened up the ascent with Frenchman Gesbert from the start. Then it was Ineos, with Castroviejo. Riders like Valverde were staying, 11km from the finish line, who was not showing the best feelings during the week. .There were still about thirty runners in the lead. Shortly after, Movistar was left without representation in the lead after Verona and Sosa dropped… and it was with 3km to go when there was the first hard attack: Richard Carapaz. Higuita was the only one who could get out on his wheel. From behind, Ayuso and Rodríguez could not continue while Nairo and Almeida, who kept shooting without caring that he was leading people on the wheel, arrived. A quartet that fell to three to play for the win and, after a sharp curve, in which Nairo was the one who came out in the best position, Almeida recomposed himself. Higuita, with a great top speed, ran out of options after his bike skidded. Almeida triumphs on a summit that had not been a goal in the race for 20 years and in which they have already won history like Chava and Chiapucci. Three riders in six seconds and three stages to the finish. The Volta is on fire.

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