LIÈGE, Belgium (VN) — Fabio Aru, the only grand tour winner on the market for 2018, remains undecided on his future with team Astana.
The Italian Champion is racing the Tour de France and says he prefers to wait until it finishes to decide if he will stay with the turquoise team from Kazakhstan or switch.
Team UAE Emirates and others reportedly want to sign him.
“For now, we have him and we want to keep him,” Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews.
“For sure, we have tough competition. Many teams want him, and if they want him, then that means he’s good. For the moment, we have him and we’ll help him win in the Tour de France for team Astana.”
Aru and his agent are meeting with General Manager Alexandre Vinokourov in these days. They were reportedly asking for $3.4 million (€3 million) a year, but have dropped their asking price to $2.3 million (€2 million).
“Vino wants to keep him, and so, to do so, you need to offer a contract, for sure, but in this moment, Fabio hasn’t decided,” Martinelli added.
“He wants to point directly at the Tour and after the Tour, decide.”
Aru was one hottest Italian prospects of his era coming out of the land of pizza and espresso. He finished second to American Joe Dombrowski in the 2012 Baby Giro d’Italia and won the Giro della Valle d’Aosta.
Martinelli spotted him and signed him for Astana. They took him immediately to race in Colorado at the US Pro Challenge that season.
He finished third and second overall in the Giro d’Italia and in 2015, won the Vuelta a España overall classification.
Since, Aru developed in to a bonafide, albeit inconsistent, grand tour cyclist.
“I could have already signed a contract with one team or another, but I preferred concentrate exclusively on the Tour de France, 100 percent.”
The 26-year-old from Sardinia suffered several physical problems that led to him missing races or suffering once in them. This year, he slipped and fell on his knee while training and had to miss the 100th Giro, starting on his island of Sardinia, due to an injured knee.
He bounced back well in the Critérium du Dauphiné last month and won the Italian road championships. He wears the famous tricolor jersey in the Tour de France, which began Saturday from Düsseldorf.
Unlike, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing), he has yet to add another year or two to his contract.
“If you are a protagonist in the Tour, then your contact value starts to change,” Martinelli continued.
“The Tour adds value to everything. Everything: the team, the riders. For sure, Aru has his strategy and so we don’t want to disturb him.
“If he decides to sign with us, then we are ready. If he wants to sign afterwards, he’ll do so. If he decides to sign for another team, the world keeps turning.”
Astana re-signed Dane Jakob Fuglsang, Aru’s co-leader in the Tour and recent winner of the Critérium du Dauphiné. It announced the deal last week.
It also reportedly signed Davide Villella from Cannondale-Drapac and Jan Hirt from CCC Sprandi-Polkowice and 12th in May’s Giro d’Italia. They are unable to announce those new signatures until after August 1 if true.
Trek-Segafredo wanted to sign Fabio Aru, but it decided against after validating the one-year extension it already had in place with Alberto Contador.
Team UAE Emirates has South African Louis Meintjes, who is out of contract next season, and needs to build up its team. General Manager Giuseppe Saronni had been talking to Geraint Thomas, yellow jersey leader in the Tour de France now, before he re-signed with Sky.
“I say humbly enough, I could have already signed a contract with one team or another, but I preferred concentrate exclusively on the Tour de France, 100 percent,” Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
“The result is mine, but also the team’s. So, I want to give it all and then, at the right time, I’ll decide.”
“We do not have the budget of team Sky, but it’s not a question of money,” said Vinokourov. “Now, the focus is on the Tour, then I hope that we will make a deal. Fabio is a champion and I want him to stay.”