LE PUY-EN-VELAY, France (VN) — Italian Fabio Aru (Astana), second overall in the Tour de France with one week to race, is reaping the benefits of a forced rest due to knee injury this spring.
The Sardinian crashed in training and was unable to race the 100th Giro d’Italia starting on his home island. He was crushed, but it may have been a blessing in disguise.
“We are reaping the benefits,” Astana trainer Maurizio Mazzoleni told VeloNews. “He didn’t take advantage of that form that he had for the Giro d’Italia due to his crash, but he’s been able to build on it again and arrive ready for the Tour.”
Aru fell during a Sierra Nevada high-altitude training camp on April 2, a month before the Giro began. Astana had to shift gears and Aru, winner of the 2015 Vuelta a España and second in the 2015 Giro, had to take nearly three weeks off.
The forced rest would be a hard blow for any Giro overall favorite, let alone a Sardinian.
That pause served him well. In the Tour de France, where he has already worn the leader’s yellow jersey for two days, he sits second overall at 18 seconds behind leader Froome with six days to race.
“We saw him in Sardinia, where the Giro started, and we tested him and his knee was ready for training,” Mazzoleni added. “We saw him again in Tenerife where he was in a training camp, and we had the sign.”
Aru returned to help Jakob Fuglsang win the Critérium du Dauphiné overall and won the Italian championship road race. Now, he is in position to win the Tour de France, something unthinkable two months ago.
“He’s very good physically, you can see that based on the classification after two weeks in the Tour de France. He’s ready to take on this last week.”
Ahead of the last week, Froome leads by 18 seconds over Aru, 23 seconds over Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and 29 seconds over Colombian Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac). Reportedly, it is the tightest GC battle at this point in the race since the 1951 Tour de France.
Froome, speaking at his hotel before a training ride, said that Urán, 30, is the “dark horse flying under the radar.”
“None of the four of us knows how it’ll go,” Aru explained on the second of two rest days Monday. “We still have the Galibier stage, going over a 2,700-meter pass, and the Izoard summit finish at 2,400 meters.
“It’s in Froome’s advantage, he has a strong team. Bardet? He was second last year, so he’s knows and he’s moving well in the group. He has good condition and he’s dangerous. Let’s not forget Urán, he’s also finished second twice in the Giro.”
Aru won the Planche des Belles Filles stage and rode away from Froome on the Peyragudes stage to move into the race lead. He also “let his guard down” in the relatively straightforward finish to Rodez and lost the yellow jersey.
“You saw the stage where I lost the jersey, every day can be dangerous. You learn to never let your guard down,” Aru continued.
“I’ll invent something when I’m on my bike. We can sit and talk at the table, but in the race, you know if you have the legs or not. It’s the same for the others. You are either going to be on a good day or a bad day when we go through the Alps.”