We have known one for a few years now, he is always there battling for glory, but does not win a lot. The other is a diamond in the rough, and the only thing we know for sure is that he has such extraordinary numbers on the climbs that he could be a possible threat to the favourites. João Almeida and Jay Vine will lead UAE Team Emirates at the Giro d’Italia 2023, which the Arab team will start with the awareness that they are not the team to beat, but also with the ambition to become a pain in everyone’s neck.
In addition to the two young captains, a very solid group of “domestiques” such as Davide Formolo, Diego Ulissi, and Alessandro Covi, last year’s winner on the Marmolada, will be there in support of Joao and Jay. Even Soudal-QuickStep, Remco Evenepoel’s team, and Jumbo-Visma, Primož Roglič’s squad, might have to struggle a bit against names of this calibre. Needless to say, when the tussle breaks out the captains will need the legs to drop or at least keep up with their rivals, but Vine and, even more so, Almeida, are used to facing the strongest riders in the world.
The Portuguese has been choosing at the Giro since 2020, the Covid year, when he revealed himself to the world by staying in the Maglia Rosa for 15 days, before raising white flag on the climb towards the Cancano Lakes. He eventually finished 4th overall and, being only 22 years old at the time, drew the attention of several insiders who saw him as a sure winner of the Giro within a few years. The following season he paid for a slow first part of the competition, in which he was also required to sacrifice his own ambitions in favour of Evenepoel, before coming out in the distance and revealing himself as probably the best performing rider of the third week. In the end he closed in 6th, with the regret that, with a whole team at his disposal, he could easily have made the podium. In 2022 he was forced to pull out before stage 19, while 4th overall and in the Maglia Bianca for best young rider, due to a positive Covid test. Unfortunately for him, some true sacred monsters have come out since then, an undeniable fact which has made winning a major stage race even harder than it already was.
And what about Vine? Well, we are probably dealing with what might be the greatest question mark of this Giro d’Italia. The 27-year-old Australian turned pro in 2020 with Alpecin-Fenix, coming out on top in the Zwift Academy virtual cycling contest. On the road, he proved his potential at last year’s Vuelta a España, winning two uphill stages, the first of which after dropping the group in which Evenepoel and Roglič happened to be in. This year he started off with a bang, winning the Tour Down Under in his native Australia. Then, a knee problem kept him away from racing, making the Giro his big comeback, which, as he has assured, he feels ready for. So, if you feel like going for a crazy bet, put two nickels on him….