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Giro’s Sardinia start motivates Aru as he seeks to win pink jersey

The Sardinian has a pair of top-3 finishes in the Italian grand tour but is still looking for his first win.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Fabio Aru has a “rare” chance to make history at the Giro d’Italia in May. It begins on his home island of Sardinia and it celebrates its 100th edition — a perfect opportunity for him to bag his first Giro victory.

Aru already won the 2015 Vuelta a España and has a pair of top-3 finishes in the Giro d’Italia (2014 and 2015). After aiming for the Tour de France last year (and subsequently finishing 13th), he is returning home “motivated” for the special occasion.

“There are many reasons. My personal reason is easy to guess, this occasion to race in Sardinia is rare,” the Astana rider told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “In general, the Giro gives you special feelings because there’s not one Italian who doesn’t know what the race is. I’ve spoken with 5-year-old kids and 90-year-olds, everyone truly knows it.

“It’s an occasion for me to redeem myself. I’ll have the legendary climbs. I’ll have many reasons.”

Aru is training now in the high altitudes of Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains. He will begin his march toward the 100th Giro d’Italia, which starts in Sardinia’s northwest city Alghero, with the Tour of Oman February 14.

Aru wants to redeem himself after recording just one win in 2016 and finishing out of the top 10 at the Tour. He lost 16 minutes one one day in the Critérium du Dauphiné, although he did win a stage via a solo attack to Tournon in the eight-day race.

In the Tour, Aru lost time slowly before cracking on the final stage over the Joux Plane. He never looked like the brilliant Sardinian cyclist fans saw win the Vuelta the year before.

“The year was positive all the same,” Aru said. “I gained experience, I learned so much more with respect to the good years that I’ve had. I know myself better. I also understand who truly cares for me and who doesn’t.

“We’ve analyzed the reasons for my performances, I understand the reasons. For that reason, I’m calm.”

Aru said he preferred to keep those reasons to himself. He did say that “things started badly and they never got back on track.”

Recently, Aru underwent minor surgery to treat turbinate hypertrophy in his nose.

“He was not relaxed, tired from 2015, etc.,” Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli said in November. “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. You’re going to see Aru racing and winning more.”

After the Tour of Oman, Aru will race the Abu Dhabi Tour, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour of Croatia. Those races will leave him on the Giro’s doorstep.

It will likely be a hard-fought Giro with former teammate Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Bauke Mollema (Trek – Segafredo), and Sky’s Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas all in the field.

“Ten or so riders could actually win it. As well as myself, I see Quintana, Nibali, Pinot, Mollema, and Kruijswijk up there, just to list a few names,” Aru said.

Aru already finished third in the 2014 Giro behind winner Quintana and second in 2015 behind winner Alberto Contador. Aru cracked in the 2015 Giro, although he bounced back to win the final two mountain stages to Cervinia and Sestriere.