Double U23 Portuguese champion João Almeida is the latest rider to sign for the Deceuninck-QuickStep squad. The 21-year-old inked a two-year deal with the WorldTour team. Almeida is currently racing with Hagens Berman Axeon at the Tour of Utah, where he holds the best young rider's jersey and seventh place overall after the high summit finish at Powder Mountain.
CEO Patrick Lefevere has had his eye on Almeida for some time, and Almeida has visited with the team during their winter training camps twice. Having impressed the team with his work ethic and with a solid string of results in 2018 including second overall and best young rider at the Baby Giro a win at the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, it was time to give Almeida a spot in the major leagues.
"We are known for our knack of spotting young guys, promoting them on the WorldTour and developing them into successful riders over time," Lefevere said. "The latest in this long line is João Almeida, who we have been following for a few years, thus getting an idea what he is capable of. The strong and consistent results he has had underline his talent and ambition, and knowing he will ride for our outfit gives us a lot of satisfaction."
Almeida is the latest from Axel Merckx's team to move up to the WorldTour. Norwegian Mikkel Bjerg, the U23 individual time trial world champion, signed with UAE Team Emirates, joining alumni Rui and Ivo Oliveira and Jasper Philipsen.
"Deceuninck – Quick-Step was always my first choice and joining them is a dream come true," Almeida said in a team press release. "The atmosphere is great and I could see during the training camps that there's a great bond between everyone – riders and staff – and this is an aspect that I really like. Also, when I made my decision, it was important that Deceuninck – Quick-Step is a squad known for helping young guys grow.
"I'm looking forward to my first pro season, when I hope to help the team, learn and improve as much as possible."