Fabio Aru still got big cheers outside the UAE-Emirates team bus Sunday morning, but he’s done little to excite the tifosi so far during

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SAPPADA, Italy (VN) — Fabio Aru still got big cheers outside the UAE-Emirates team bus Sunday morning, but he’s done little to excite the tifosi so far during the race in this Giro d’Italia.

After struggling up Monte Zoncolan on Saturday, Aru got dropped late in Sunday’s stage. He survived to the line but plummeted out of GC contention. Aru finished 69th at 19:31 back and dropped nine spots from 13th to 22nd, now 25:14 back.

“This is not the real Fabio Aru,” he lamented. “This is not my normal level. Something unusual is happening, and we will try to find out why.”

Aru was waving off RAI TV cameras as he struggled on the late climbs in Sunday’s stage. There was one point it appeared he might even abandon, but his teammates rallied around him to help pace him to the finish line.

“Today was a truly difficult day, both physically and psychologically,” Aru said. “I want to thank my teammates for staying close to me. It’s obvious that something is not right.”

The 27-year-old Italian had high hopes and even bigger pressure coming into this Giro.

After winning the 2015 Vuelta a España, many expected Aru to develop into Italy’s next big grand tour star.

His progress has continued but on a less steep trajectory. He was a solid 13th in his Tour de France debut in 2016 and fifth last year. After an off-season switch from Astana to UAE-Emirates, he refocused on the Giro this year and came in with quiet hopes of contending for the podium.

“I feel bad at not being able to be at the top,” he said. “Myself, my team and everyone did everything to be in the best possible shape for this Giro.”

He’ll be hoping to rebound after Monday’s rest day to try to at least win a stage to salvage what’s been a bitterly disappointing Giro for the Italian star.