Giro d'Italia
Fabio Aru sits second overall in the Giro, and his...

Is Astana burning its Giro matches too soon?

Astana had a strong first week at the Giro d'Italia, but is the squad getting ahead of itself and doing too much, too soon at the race?

SAN GIORGIO DEL SANNIO, Italy (VN) — Astana has been on fire in the Giro d’Italia with a show of force throughout the first week capped off by a stage win in Sunday’s stage 9 for Paolo Tiralongo. The risk, however, is that the team is burning all of its matches ahead of the third week.

Italian Fabio Aru placed third overall in 2014 behind victor Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick-Step). To win this year, he will have to rely on Astana not only to take him to the third week, but to guide him over the mountain passes sprinkled throughout the run west from Venice to Turin.

If Astana makes a mistake, Tinkoff-Saxo with current race leader Alberto Contador, and Sky with Richie Porte will be ready to exploit the situation.

“Some teams have spent an awful lot of energy this week,” Sky’s general manager Dave Brailsford said. “We have to have the reserves to go through that third week.”

Astana drove the group on two key stages to La Spezia and to the summit finish at the Campitello Matese ski station. It also counts a stage win. On Sunday, Tiralongo made the escape, rode hard to catch Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin), and won the stage solo.

“I was there to mark the move when it formed early in the stage,” the Sicilian stage winner told journalists in the mixed zone adjacent to the finish line.

“Only when we were free did I receive the OK from the team to play my cards.”

The win boosted team morale, but at what cost? Tiralongo will be called on as well as Dario Cataldo and Mikel Landa to ride for Aru in week three of the race, but if he lacks strength, the plan to win race’s spiral trophy on May 31 in Milan could be compromised.

“Paolo’s an important rider, but spending this energy isn’t going to make a difference,” Astana’s team manager Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews next to the team cars where staff celebrated.

“Monday’s a rest day, but the truth is that we have a rest week coming up. We are going to have some easier days to regain all of our energy, it won’t be a problem.

“The first week was a hard week, where we needed to gain as much time possible. We gained time on Urán, who was always going to be dangerous. If you would give me these time gaps on the first day, then I’d gladly agree.”

In the top three overall, the gaps are small. Contador leads by three seconds on Aru and 22 on Porte. Urán, the next best favorite, sits at 2:10 back in eighth.

Following Monday’s rest day, the Giro should have a few tranquillo days before arriving in Treviso on Saturday for the 59.4km time trial. The stage will give the classification a proper shake before the mountains in the feared and final week of the 2015 Giro d’Italia.