FINHAUT-EMOSSON, Switzerland (VN) — Fabio Aru did not launch one of his attacks Wednesday in the Tour de France as he did to win the Vuelta a España or to finish twice on the podium in the Giro d’Italia, but he and his Astana team say they are not worried. Instead, the others should worry.
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Sky’s Chris Froome still sits on top of the race with three mountain days left. Wednesday, however, Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek – Segafredo) struggled to maintain his second spot and American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Daniel Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) drifted quickly behind on the 10.4-kilometer summit finish to the Emosson Dam in Switzerland.
Aru, 26 years old and riding his first Tour, continued steadily after Froome attacked clear with Richie Porte (BMC) in the final kilometer and moved from 10th to eighth overall.
“Astana worked well today,” team manager Giuseppe Martinelli explained. “We moved up the classification. Instead, there are big winners who are suffering more than him. It’s not Aru, but the others who should worry.”
Aru pedalled his bike on a stationary trainer high up on the dam. He spoke quietly about his ride, described how Vincenzo Nibali and Diego Rosa dedicated themselves to help him for the summit finish.
“They worked; our goal was to create a hard race,” Aru said. “I didn’t feel ready to go at six kilometers from the finish when they pulled off, and it’s always a risk from that sort of distance. I preferred to stay there with the three big days ahead in the Alps.”
Aru won the Vuelta a España in a thrilling final mountain stage by sending his men up the road to crack Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin). It was his first grand tour win after placing third in the 2014 Giro and then last year, second behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).
Team Astana brought him to the Tour with the idea of possibly winning, but above all, to learn.
“For sure, it’s been a hard Tour with the wind in the second week and then the third week with these difficult stages in the Alps. You really need to have the energy through the last day,” Aru said.
“In a grand tour, it’s important to recover each day, but all the stages are important in the Tour and you begin to feel all the stages in your legs. They add up.”
Aru’s coach spoke with him and he climbed up the steps of the team’s turquoise bus parked on the dam. Martinelli stood outside and took in the view of the tall Alpine peaks separating Switzerland from France, where the race resumes tomorrow with a 17-kilometer time trial up the Côte des Chozeaux to Megève on Thursday.
“Apart from Yates, who’s 23, Fabio’s the only new one here in the top of the classification and he’s doing big things,” Martinelli added. “In the top 10, we’ve moved up and neared the others. We are nearer to Quintana, Mollema — experienced Tour riders.
“We wanted to come to the Tour, the biggest race, after he won the Vuelta, twice on the podium in the Giro. It was time to go to the Tour to gain experience. I think from what he showed so far he can do it. Why not become a Tour man?”