FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Fabio Aru will take a different path to the grand tours in 2017. Team Astana says, “You are going to see Fabio Aru racing and winning more.”
Aru, who upset Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) to snatch the 2015 Vuelta a España title, suffered through the 2016 season. He aimed for the Tour de France, but lost time slowly before cracking on the final stage over the Joux Plane. He never looked like the brilliant Sardinian cyclist fans saw in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.
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“This year was a strange year; he started a little bit behind schedule in his preparations for the Tour,” Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews.
“He was not relaxed, tired from 2015, etc. You can have those types of years. We want to make sure that he’s ready for 2017, already ready by March to bring in some extra results.”
Martinelli promised fans would see a “Bel Fabio” fighting for wins as early as the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March.
“The bad year will help him in the future. It’ll help him improve,” Martinelli added.
“You’re going to see Aru racing and winning more. He’s been training on his bike since November 1, about 15 days ahead of last year. He will spend less time in training camps, even if I’m in favor of these camps because you are with your trainer and calm. You can prepare better than racing to certain conditions.”
After he pulled off a Vuelta upset on the final mountain day, the penultimate stage ahead of the Madrid finish, Aru, 26, raced for another month. He competed in Italy, in the sponsor’s home of Kazakhstan, and in Abu Dhabi. It had been a successful 2015 run with two stage wins and second overall in the Giro d’Italia behind Alberto Contador, and the Vuelta title, but the season left him drained for 2016.
“I’m turning my back on an ugly 2016 season, when I made many mistakes,” Aru said at a team press conference Wednesday.
“The big reason for my bad 2016 season is that I started off behind in training, maybe I was still tried from 2015, when I truly gave my all to win the Vuelta a España.”
Aru may have bitten off more than he can could chew with the Tour. He is one of the few grand tour winners in the peloton, but still not shoulder to shoulder with Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, or Chris Froome. Like a fine Cannonau wine from Sardinia, that could come with age. With another Giro d’Italia in his legs, and perhaps a win, he could consider a Tour run again in 2018.
Part of the pull for Aru’s Giro’s participation is that the race celebrates its 100th edition in 2017, and it makes a rare appearance in Sardinia. The big island 200 miles off Italy’s west coast will host the first three stages. The difficulty of the three-week route surprised Aru at the presentation.
“This Giro is hard, hard, hard,” Martinelli added. “You will need to arrive with your batteries well-charged.”
Aru will likely begin 2017 with the Volta a Valenciana in Spain, February 1. He will build to the Tirreno-Adriatico mid-March and Milano-Sanremo. He could take aim at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, too, five week later.
Martinelli said, “If he goes it’ll be at 99 percent form, otherwise, it’s better to just finish the Giro del Trentino and focus on the Giro. He’d like to try winning Liège, and why not?”
He will still sneak away to the high altitudes on Spain’s Tenerife island at the end of March and again, perhaps at another location closer to home, before the Giro.
“He’s always traveled to altitude camps ahead of those big grand tours that he’s had. It doesn’t bother him, whereas other riders get tired of being there. Take away 2016, he’s never erred heading into grand tours.”