Deceuninck-QuickStep’s João Almeida moved up one more spot to earn himself fourth place overall at the 2020 Giro d’Italia when it finished with an individual time trial in Milan on Sunday, capping what has been an extraordinary past three weeks for the 22-year-old Portuguese rider who was making his Grand Tour debut in Italy.

Almeida had finished second to time trial world champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) on the Giro’s opening-stage test against the clock in Palermo on October 3, and rode himself into the pink leader’s jersey on stage 3 to Mount Etna two days later.

With the help of his teammates, the young Portuguese rider put in an assured, mature performance to remain at the head of affairs all the way through to stage 18, when Jai Hindley won the stage at Laghi di Cancano ahead of eventual overall Giro winner Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), while Hindley’s Sunweb teammate Wilco Kelderman took temporary possession of the leader’s jersey.

“I can’t put into words how happy I am,” Almeida said in a team press release on Sunday. “This is incredible – something I would have never dreamed of. My goal three weeks ago was a top-10 finish, so to be fourth on the GC of this beautiful race is simply mind-blowing.

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“This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates and staff, who have shown at all times the amazing ‘Wolfpack’ spirit, and to whom I am very grateful,” he said.

Ganna again won the race’s final time trial in Milan on Sunday, but Almeida was able to take fourth on the stage, 41 seconds down on the Italian, to switch GC positions with Bahrain McLaren’s Pello Bilbao, who dropped to fifth overall.

Almeida was still riding for US under-23 development team Hagens Berman Axeon – of which Geoghegan Hart is also an alumnus – as recently as last season, but has settled in well since joining Belgian WorldTour squad Deceuninck-QuickStep this year, culminating in his impressive effort at the Giro to finish his year.

“I discovered a lot of things about myself here [at the Giro],” he said. “I pushed myself mentally and gave everything, every single time. I leave this hard race with many beautiful memories – the best of those being the day when I seized the maglia rosa on the Etna.

“I’m still young and will see what the future holds, but what I can tell you now is that one day I hope to wear this iconic jersey again,” Almeida said.