King of the hills

Ruben Guerreiro claims King of the Mountains Jersey at Giro d’Italia

When Ruben Guerreiro first signed with the EF Pro Cycling, team CEO Jonathan Vaughters said “Ruben is bold, but he can back it up.” A stage victory and the mountains classification at the Giro d’Italia — “backing it up” for sure.

 

Before the race started, when asked if he was excited, Ruben answered: “We have a strong team and really nice group, I’m going to try to win a stage.” No more, no less. A simple declaration. But if you know Ruben, you knew his mind was fully set on that goal. 

 

“I talked a lot with Ruben during the lockdown and I liked the way he was dealing with it a lot,” said sport director and former rider Matti Breschel. “He was always motivated, always saw this as a big opportunity for him to do something big even though he didn’t know if there were going to be any races. And then he got the phone call saying he was going to do the Giro and he was already fully prepared. He said to me ‘I need to win one stage’. And I told him ‘Ok, let’s do this.’” 

It took him a whole nine stages to make it happen, and after winning his first GrandTour stage on stage nine, Ruben saw an opportunity to chase something bigger. He saw that he had a shot at winning the Maglia Azzurra (blue jersey) handed out to the rider who accumulates the most points in the mountains over the course of the three week race. 

 

Winning a mountains classification is no easy task at a three-week Grand Tour. To do so, Ruben fought to be at the front of the race on all of the big mountain stages and then he battled for every single point at the top of the climbs. But more than that, it required a strong team effort as well. The team behind worked hard to get into tough breakaways, especially after losing the jersey in week two of the race and worked hard to support Ruben throughout. 

 

“It was a team effort to get that jersey back,” said Breschel. “There were a few other riders trying to get that jersey as well including Ben O’Connor (NTT) and Thomas De Gendt (LTS) and everyone on the team feels like they have been a part of it.”

 

The 2020 Giro d’Italia marked the return of Portugal to the top of the cycling world with Ruben’s mountains classification performance and João Almeida’s (DQT) two week stint in the pink leader’s jersey. 

 

“It’s hard to believe, but it’s huge in Portugal,” said Matti Breschel. “He’s basically bigger than Christiano Ronaldo right now. He had phone calls from the president, journalists have been flying in to interview him. Tomorrow he’s on a private jet where he’s going to be celebrated like a king. It’s the first Jersey that Portugal has ever won in a GrandTour even though they’ve had some big riders in their history.”

 

Not only was his KOM jersey the first in Portugal’s history, his victory on stage nine was Portugal’s first stage win in over 31 years. It’s also the first time in EF Pro Cycling’s history that a rider takes the mountains classification at a Grand Tour. 

But under all the boldness that has made Ruben Guerreiro who he is today, there is a lot of humility and grace. Ruben was one of the first riders to congratulate Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart – a former teammate from his days at Hagens Berman Axeon – after he crossed the line. “At the beginning he was happy for me when I took stage nine and I told him then “now you need to take your moment. You’re in the top 10 and you are looking good”. It’s good that it turned out well.” 

 

He also took the time to congratulate his compatriot – also a former Hagens Berman Axeon rider – in front of the Duomo in Milan. “I also wanted to see João do well,” said Ruben. “My friends did really well.” 

 

A duck jersey, a blue jersey, a stage win, that’s what he will be taking home with today when he flies back to Portugal. Not a bad Giro in our books.