In a rarity for the Belgian team, no sprinter was named in their eight-man squad unveiled on Monday, despite Colombian Álvaro Hodeg having been pencilled in to start.
Instead, while Rémi Cavagna will target stage wins in the two time trials, the squad looks set up for a GC challenge, with the in-form Fausto Masnada in a support role alongside British climber James Knox, Pieter Serry, and Mikkel Honoré. The squad is rounded out by road captain Iljo Keisse.
Almeida, who was fourth overall last year having led the race for two weeks, starts as the nominal leader, as Evenepoel heads to Turin having not raced for eight months.
The 21-year-old Belgian suffered complications in his comeback from a pelvis fracture suffered last August and although he has since made progress in training through a series of altitude camps, his racing form is an unknown even before taking into consideration this is his debut Grand Tour.
In recent days, the Deceuninck-QuickStep team management had been looking to relieve any sense of expectation surrounding their star name, and Evenepoel himself echoed those feelings. However the talented young Belgian is said to be on form and keen to confirm his Grand Tour aspirations.
"I’m happy to race again after such a long period, during which I worked hard to be ready for my first Grand Tour. Being my first race since last August means that we’ll need to see how my body will react," he said.
"We will take it day by day and see how things go. The most important thing is that I am back with my teammates and staff again, which makes me very happy."
Almeida, himself only 22, will shoulder more of the responsibility after his break-out performance at last year's autumn Giro. There are fewer time trial kilometres for the Portuguese rider to hurt his rivals, meaning he's placing more of an emphasis on the mountain stages in the back-end of the race, where he came unstuck last year.
"Last year it was an incredible Giro. I would like to be up there again, fight for a nice result and keep a good feeling, which is the most important thing," Almeida said.
"Hopefully, things will go well and we’ll score some nice results. This year, the mountain stages are going to play a more important role in the final outcome, which means consistency will be the key."
Deceuninck-QuickStep for the Giro d'Italia
- João Almeida
- Remco Evenepoel
- Fausto Masnada
- Remi Cavagna
- James Knox
- Iljo Keisse
- Mikkel Honore
- Pieter Serry
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