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MILAN (VN) — Fabio Aru, winner of last year’s Vuelta a España, arrived in Rio de Janeiro for a chance to win the Olympics road race Saturday in Rio de Janeiro with Italian teammate Vincenzo Nibali.
The 26-year-old from Sardinia is racing his first Olympics. He is coming off of the Tour de France, where he sat sixth overall but slid to 13th in the final mountain day.
“It’s an ideal course for those riders who like climbs; it’s useless to pretend otherwise,” Aru told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It suits those who want to try from far, like Rui Costa or Dan Martin, who can launch a surprise attack.”
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Aru will race alongside two-time Olympian Nibali, who won grand tours and last October, Il Lombardia. They are in Brazil with their Astana teammate Diego Rosa. Damiano Caruso and Alessandro De Marchi, both from BMC Racing, round out the five-man Italian team.
Only five men’s teams race with five. The U.S. team, for example, is in Rio with a two-man team of Brent Bookwalter and Taylor Phinney.
“We need to be attentive already from the opening phases of the course,” Aru added. “I’m very confident, though. We are a good group. Cohesive. We know each other well. And we are all in great condition.”
Aru counts a Vuelta overall win, and a second and third place in the Giro d’Italia in his palmarès — along with stage wins from both races — but he has never won a one-day race. A third place in the Milano-Torino is his best result of note.
The team in blue or the Squadra Azzurra will probably race for Nibali, 31, who won the monument one-day classic Lombardia last year and placed second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and third in Milano-Sanremo.
“A bronze medal? I’d be happy just to come away satisfied with my ride,” Aru said. “I don’t want to have regrets.”
After the Olympics, Aru, his trainer Maurizio Mazzoleni, and Astana’s brass will sit down to discuss what went wrong at the Tour. After podiums in the Giro and the Vuelta win last September, many followers — and perhaps the rider himself — expected something more in Aru’s debut.
“I spoke with the team, we tried to find reason, but I prefer to delay the discussion until after the Olympics,” he said.
“I believe, and it’s not just a catch phrase, that you always learn more from a beating than a victory.”