Aru looks to finish challenging season with Il Lombardia win

The Sardinian has endured a knee injury and the death of teammate Michele Scarponi this year.

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — With his knee injury and Astana teammate Michele Scarponi’s death, Fabio Aru is surviving a hard season. The Italian wants to end in style with Il Lombardia on Saturday, and he is promising to deliver “a good show” to his fans.

The Sardinian cyclist, fifth in the Tour de France, placed third in Thursday’s Milano-Torino behind winner Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac).

“I certainly want to give the maximum through until the end in what is a very hard race,” Aru said. “I know the climbs. It’s a hard Lombardia route, like the last one that Vincenzo Nibali won in 2015.

“I truly want to do well. It’ll be hard to win for sure, but I hope to give the fans a good show.”

Nibali showed his critics he was still one of the best cyclists in the world in 2015. He bounced back at the end of a difficult season to win several one-day races. In Lombardia, he attacked on the final climb and rode solo along the lakeside to finish in Como.

After a year in Bergamo, where Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) won in 2016, the race returns this weekend to finish in Como. The Ghisallo and Muro di Sormano climbs should break the race into groups and the smaller finishing climbs Civiglio and San Fermo della Battaglia should produce the winner.

“I’ve been out to try it twice after the Vuelta a España,” Aru added. “I know it, but more than knowing it, you need the legs.”

Aru appears to have the legs. In Milano-Torino, Astana rode to place him in an ideal position for the finishing Superga climb near Turin. He attacked and Colombian Rigoberto Urán countered and rode away solo. Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) escaped for second and Aru held off Nairo Quintana (Movistar) for third place on the podium.

“I’m happy with the result in Milano-Torino because from Saturday, when I restarted after the Vuelta a España in Giro dell’Emilia, I’ve had good sensations. And it was even better [in Milano-Torino],” explained Aru. “So I had asked my teammates to push it to try to close to the escape. Thanks guys. Now we are concentrated on Saturday.”

With 32-year-old Nibali nearing the end of his best years, Italy looks for its stars with eyes on Aru, who already won the 2015 Vuelta, and Gianni Moscon (Sky).

Aru survived a difficult 2016 season. He canceled his Giro plans after a training crash led to knee problems. Soon after, the driver of a truck hit and killed Scarponi during a training ride.

He then refocused on the Tour de France. He won the Planche des Belles Filles stage and wore the yellow jersey for two days. However, he had to manage with a weakened team as he fought his way to fifth overall in Paris.

“I always tried to give my best in the season. I always want to win and to be at the front, logically. In fact, many times I’ve said to my girlfriend, I ask much from myself. Anyway, I’m happy with how the season went,” Aru said.

“We had a hard season with losing Michele. My teammates fell badly at the Tour, Jakob Fuglsang and Dario Cataldo. It wasn’t always easy to manage the situation. But I’m happy with my season. And, OK, now we just have one race to go, Saturday.”

Aru will leave Astana over the winter for team UAE Emirates, according to sources close to the deal. In 2018, insiders say Aru will return to the Giro and Dan Martin will lead the Tour team.

“I still don’t know what I’ll do next year, but we need to wait to see the race routes,” Aru said. “It’s been two years since I’ve been to the Giro, and the Corsa Rosa is close to my heart.”