Tour de France
Fabio Aru aims to distance Chris Froome in the...

Aru: Froome is strong, but the Tour isn’t over

Fabio Aru and his Astana team head into the Tour de France's Pyrenean stages willing to attack Froome for the yellow jersey.

BERGERAC, France (VN) — Fabio Aru says that “Yes, Chris Froome is very strong,” but that fans should wait until the Tour de France arrives in the Pyrénées and Alps to decide who is the best.

The Sardinian is second overall at 18 seconds. He won the 2015 Vuelta a España by overthrowing Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) on the final day of climbing. He wants to do the same with Sky’s captain.

“Yeah, he’s strong, but anything can happen in this Tour de France,” Astana’s Aru said. “I just have to flip through Instagram or Twitter to see who my supporters are in Sardinia and the rest of Italy. I hope I can do some great things for them.”

The war of words followed a head-to-head on the road Sunday. Aru attacked Froome who raised his hand to signal a mechanical problem moments before. Froome seemingly retaliated by nudging Aru to the side of the road. The yellow jersey says he just lost his balance, that it was “crazy” to assume otherwise.

Aru promised a continued fight in the summit finish to Peyragudes on Thursday and the short, punchy stage to Foix on Friday. Of course they’ll battle on through the Alps, notably the final summit stage to Izoard.

“The Izoard, the Croix de Fer, those climbs, the stages in the Alps will be decisive,” team manager Giuseppe Martinelli said. “In the third week you are tired and those who still have the force to attack will rise to the top.

“Fabio needs to attack to win the Tour. We are luckily that we have Jakob Fuglsang up in the classification [5th at 1:37]. To have him high up is fundamental. It’s fundamental because he can attack to soften the rivals or to put some pressure on Froome.”

Behind his wide ear-to-ear grin, Aru is often dismissed as an inconsistent, fragile, and quiet Italian. But after every crisis, he bounces back stronger than before.

He struggled in the opening weeks of the Giro d’Italia in 2015. But he returned to win two mountain stages and place second overall. He had left in a fit after losing time to Dumoulin in a closing Vuelta stage. Then, Aru returned in the last mountain day and rode away to win with his Astana teammates.

This spring, all seemed to be lost when a crash in training forced him to forfeit the Giro d’Italia. The race even started on his island of Sardinia. He returned strong in the Critérium du Dauphiné in June and helped Fuglsang win the overall. And the Tour has gone well, too. He has already won the first summit finish, and only so far, to La Planche des Belles Filles.

And do not expect a clean fight. Astana says “fair play” is used too much in cycling. Martinelli laughs at those who laughed at his team pulling back Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), third overall at 51 second, on Sunday.

“To win the Tour you have to battle Froome, and to do so you can do it only if he remains on his own, isolated, and maybe having the luck as we have had before, having Fabio going strong,” continued Martinelli.

“We are going to try, that’s why we are here. And Jakob is going to be key in this push with Fabio.”