MILAN (VN) — A storm could be brewing with the Vuelta a España on the horizon, but Fabio Aru refuses to believe so.
Aru, second in the Giro d’Italia, welcomed fellow Italian and teammate Vincenzo Nibali into the Astana lineup for the Vuelta, which starts in three weeks on August 22.
After a disappointing Tour de France, Nibali announced Friday that he would form part of Astana’s team alongside Aru and Spaniard Mikel Landa for the Spanish grand tour.
Team Manager Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews that it might be the strongest team he has ever raced in a grand tour, but it could be one that has the potential to internally combust.
Nibali is said to be on the outs with Astana after failing in the first half of the Tour de France, and Aru is supposed to be the team’s next grand tour star. The Kazakh team in blue has not renewed Nibali’s contact, which expires in 2016, but extended Aru’s through 2017.
Aru placed second in the Giro and put the Vuelta on his planner early in the year. He aims to win his first grand tour in Spain after last year winning two stages and finishing fifth overall. Nibali has won all three grand tours – the 2010 Vuelta, the 2013 Giro, and the 2014 Tour. Trying to make amends for the Tour in the Vuelta, his star presence could potentially upset Aru.
“It’s better to have Vincenzo as a teammate,” Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper over the weekend.
“It’s the others who will have the problems.”
Aru is taking a low-key approach to the Vuelta as he did for the Giro. Ahead of the Giro, he only raced in Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya.
After the Giro ended May 31 in Milan, he returned to racing for the first time in two months Sunday in the Tour of Poland. The eight-day race is his only preparation race before the Vuelta. That means that Aru has essentially spent more days training at altitude this year than he has racing.
The 25-year-old from Sardinia’s southwest has not previewed any of the Vuelta stages, but will rely on Martinelli’s direction and perhaps Nibali’s experience over the three weeks.
Achieving anything less than a win could be a disaster for the team. Before Nibali turned his Tour around with a stage win at La Toussuire ski station and a fourth place overall in Paris, General Manager Alexandre Vinokourov told VeloNews that the team has to win at least one grand tour this year.
“It’s not that we have to win, but we have to be competitive,” Martinelli told VeloNews.
“We were great in the Giro, probably the best team, but we lacked a big star to finish it off. With the team that we have for the Vuelta, we can take on and beat Quintana or Froome.”
Aru insisted that the race will not turn into an intra-team squabble.
“[Nibali and I] spoke on the telephone Thursday. He’s come out of the of the Tour in great form, the win gave him a good boost,” Aru said.
“We are professionals, we know how to do our work, we know the rules of the team. I have a good relationship with him even if we never race together.”
Aru pointed out times they lined up side by side: when he helped Nibali win the 2013 Giro and in the 2014 world championships in Ponferrada, Spain.
Landa adds another potentially combustible element. At the Giro, the 25-year-old Basque climber appeared the strongest in team Astana at times, holding on to second overall for three stages and winning the Madonna di Campiglio and Aprica mountain stages. He is slated to join team Sky in 2016, so if he goes against the team’s orders and races for himself, then he would have little to lose and much to gain in the Vuelta.