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MILAN (VN) — Fabio Aru’s dark and tanned face lit up when the Giro d’Italia lifted the curtain on its 2017 route Tuesday evening.
“I didn’t expect this hard of a Giro,” Aru said.
Aru arrived in Italy from a long vacation in Thailand Tuesday morning and lacked a free moment to browse the leaked Giro stages on the Internet. He had an air of concern when he saw the 100th edition of the corsa rosa.
“I’ll admit that it surprised me,” he said.
“I’d heard a few rumors going around when I was on vacation, but to see it on the screen in the presentation, the official route, I was impressed. I didn’t expect this hard of a Giro.”
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The 26-year-old from Sardinia has already raced three editions of his home race. He wore the pink jersey and placed second overall to Alberto Contador in 2015. Aru went on to topple Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) and bag his first grand tour victory in the Vuelta a España later that year.
“I have to be honest. In all the grand tour tours that I’ve participated in, I’ve been tested and felt fatigued. Looking at this route, though, I think it’s going to be the hardest yet,” Aru said.
The route of the 100th Giro celebrates Italy with a course that travels most of the country. It briefly detours into Switzerland for 15 kilometers.
The race starts in Sardinia, hops over to Italy’s other big island Sicily, and travels from the toe of the famous boot to the high Alpine passes in the north. The race balances mountains with two time trials that total 67.2km.
The organizer counts four summit finishes, with the first one on the fourth day to Mount Etna. Aru added, “Your Giro could be compromised before the end of the first week.” The race continues with finishes up the climbs of Blockhaus, Oropa, and Piancavallo.
Danger is everywhere. The Stelvio day that kicks off the third week lays it on thick. Stage 16 climbs the Mortirolo and the Stelvio from two different sides. RCS Sport included a technical twist by finishing the stage with a descent of Europe’s super pass. Two days later in the Dolomites, the Giro takes the cyclists over four high passes before the final finishing kick to Ortisei.
“It’s a beautiful Giro,” Aru added. “With the final week and last stage, a time trial, it’s going to keep everyone guessing until the end. It’ll be a fantastic show for the fans.”
Sardinian fans can bet with near certainty that Aru will line up with defending champion and Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali. With the race making rare visits to their home islands, one RCS Sport insider told VeloNews they are guaranteed starters.
Aru will lead Astana next year with Nibali leaving to head the new Bahrain – Merida team. Both hinted at racing the 2017 Giro in recent weeks, but neither confirmed their presence.
“Sardinia is going to be special for me with my fans,” Aru said. “It will be the big start and on my island. I won’t be able to win one of those stages, but they mean the most to me.”