Giro d'Italia
Fabio Aru enters the Giro d'Italia with a question...

Giro d’Italia: Aru rides into the unknown

Aru is due to lead Astana's GC hopes at the Italian grand tour, but a virus has kept him out of races

MILAN (VN) — Italy’s most promising general classification rider Fabio Aru is now in a race simply to be on form for the Giro d’Italia. The Italian grand tour starts in just over a week in Liguria, but Aru (Astana), who placed third in 2014, has not pinned a racing number on his back in a month.

Knocked out by a stomach virus , the 24-year-old called off the Giro del Trentino last week and a chance to face rival Richie Porte (Sky). He considered racing the Tour de Romandie this week, but is skipping that one too.

The Giro d’Italia will be Aru’s first race since placing sixth behind Porte in Spain’s Volta a Catalunya stage race March 29. His only other race this year was Paris-Nice, in which Porte was on top again and Aru took 39th.

While Porte won the Giro del Trentino in northern Italy, Aru took antibiotics. He is now training again, but it is clear he suffered a setback.

The Giro favorites as it stands now are, in order: Porte, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick-Step), and Aru.

Astana won the Tour de France in 2014 with Vincenzo Nibali. It gave the green light to Aru to lead its Giro team and to Nibali to defend the Tour title in this summer.

For a moment, perhaps in panic over Aru’s condition or its UCI WorldTour license battle, it appeared Nibali would be called in to pick up the pieces for Aru. The Sicilian won the Giro in 2013 before turning his focus to France’s grand tour.

“At this moment, it’s not in my plans” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport last week. “But in 2010, I found out three days before that I’d race, and I’d been off the bike for 10 days.”

Nibali just completed the Ardennes classics. On Tuesday, he began Switzerland’s Tour de Romandie against Briton Chris Froome (Sky) and Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar). With the Tour de France in July and Astana’s WorldTour license secured as of last Thursday, it appears unlikely he will race the Giro d’Italia.

Aru will lead the turquoise team from Sanremo to Milano from May 9-31.

The cyclist from the southwest corner of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea has racked up impressive results both as an amateur and a professional.

He placed second in the Baby Giro behind American Joe Dombrowski in 2012 and won the Giro della Val d’Aosta twice. Along with the Tour de L’Avenir, those were the two most prestigious stage races during Aru’s amateur days.

It quickly came together for him in his third year in the professional ranks in 2014. He won the Giro’s summit finish to Montecampione and placed third overall behind Quintana, and later grabbed two Vuelta a España stage wins.

Aru is now trying to save his 2015 season before it quickly comes undone.

“I did everything to plan. I trained a lot, a lot of it at altitude, and I raced little,” Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It was more or less in line with what I did in 2014.”

As planned, Aru joined his Giro teammates (Diego Rosa, Dario Cataldo, Paolo Tiralongo, and others) at 2,000 meters above sea level in the Sestriere ski resort, where on Monday he had to train in the gym due to snow and rain.

The ski resort hosts the finish of the Giro’s final mountain stage on May 30, but it is largely unknown how Aru will fare through the race.