Giro d'Italia
Fabio Aru has struggled in the mountain stages of...

Astana says Aru may race Vuelta after Giro misfire

Astana suggests the Italian could try his luck in the Spanish grand tour after he fell out of contention at the Giro this week

CERVINIA, Italy (VN) — Italian Fabio Aru will return to try to win his first grand tour at the Vuelta a España in August. After suffering through the Giro d’Italia, Astana wants him to back off and return for the Spanish grand tour.

Aru — like everyone else in the field — was destroyed by grand tour star Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the Giro. He had hoped for a win, or at least a strong second place behind Contador, but he crumbled like the Italian economy.

The cyclist from Sardinia’s southwest corner slid out of contention on the Mortirolo climb Tuesday in Italy’s Alps. He sat third at 6:05 back entering Friday’s stage 19. The race concludes Sunday in Milan.

Madrid, and not Milan, could provide more reason to party for 24-year-old Aru.

“We are thinking of the Vuelta next,” Astana sport director Alexandre Shefer told VeloNews.

“He needs to rest first then he can think about preparing for the Vuelta like he did for the Giro. He will go there for the overall win, for sure. Many will have done the Tour [and will be tired], so he will be a favorite, more than what he was for the Giro.”

The Vuelta begins in Puerto Banús on August 22 and ends on September 13 in Madrid.

Some insiders suggested Aru should ride his first Tour de France in support of 2014 winner and Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali. Astana believes Aru is too talented to do so.

“A rider like him should not go and be [a] helper,” Shefer added. “They are both big stars. Maybe after the year ends we can think about the Tour for Aru. Why not?”

Aru’s Giro d’Italia looked doomed from the start given his leadup to the race. He raced only twice, in Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya, and did not come away with a notable result. He fell sick with a stomach virus, stopped training for five days, and skipped his final tune-up race, the Giro del Trentino.

He showed the same grit in the first two weeks of the Giro that won him top amateur stage races like the Giro della Val d’Aosta, but he faded quickly when the third week started. If a facial expression could signal a rider’s form, Aru had no form since stage 11 in Imola.

The white jersey of the best young rider has been his saving grace. That and the grit, or grinta as they say in Italy, in times of suffering.

“He has the head of a winner. Sure, given what he did before [third in 2014], he thought that he could do something big, you saw that at the start of the Giro, but he paid a little,” Shefer said.

“Let’s not make a drama out of this, though. On Mortirolo, he saved the day, 40 kilometers alone, but he only lost two minutes to Contador. I told him, ‘You showed that you’re a big rider for the big tours.’

“Another person might have lost 20 minutes. He hung in there, though. We were worried to tell you the truth, but he showed his character.”

Team Manager Giuseppe Martinelli stood under the shade of the bus’ awning ahead of the stage in Melide, Switzerland, Thursday. He has guided several others to grand tour wins, most recently Nibali in the 2014 Tour, and underlined his faith in Aru.

“All the champions, before they became champions, paid something. It was probably [Aru’s] turn, it’s happened this year, but we are still third in the GC! It’s not that we are 12th overall,” Martinelli said.

“The team is built around him. He’s extended up until 2017, that means that Vino [Alexander Vinokourov] and the team believe in Aru. We will support him the best we can, we will plan around him for the future. We are not going to forget about him, for sure. We will back him.”

And, as Shefer explained, the Astana team will back Aru next to win the 2015 Vuelta a España.