Aru hoping for success on Ardennes Classic debut

Vuelta a Espana winner leads Astana at the Amstel Gold Race

Fabio Aru will lead the Astana team at the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, in search of his first victory of the season and first since he won the 2015 Vuelta a Espana.

The 25 year-old Sardinian has set the Tour de France as his major goal of the year but is also hoping to do well on his debut in the Ardennes Classics. He will also ride Fleche Wallonne next Wednesday and then to team up with fellow Italian Vincenzo Nibali for Liege-Bastogne-Liege, after the Sicilian has ridden the Giro del Trentino.

“The Amstel Gold Race wasn’t on my original race programme but I wanted to add it to get into the feel of the Ardennes,” Aru told Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview before travelling to the Netherlands.

“My form is pretty good but its difficult to make any kind of comparison because I’ve never tried to peak in April. My big goal is to be 100% for the Tour de France in July. For now I’m a bit below that.”

Aru was forced to quit the recent Vuelta a Pais Vasco during stage five after hurting his finger in a crash when Adam Yates and Simon Gerrans went down after hitting a bidon. He endured a difficult race, with up and down form.

“I had some good days but also some bad days, when I made mistakes. I wanted to test my form but I did too much. Fortunately Pais Vasco gave me a good block of hard racing. I was just disappointed not to finish because I’d never quit a stage race in my whole career, even as an amateur. It happened because of a crash but it still angers me.”

Aru admits that the Amstel Gold Race is a difficult race for a debutant but knows the steep Ardennes hills suit his climbing skills and often aggressive racing style.

“I’ve never raced here before and so I’m going to keep my feet on the ground,” he said. “I’ve also never ridden the Tour de France but stage races are different and something I know about. I‘ll ride the Ardennes in the hope of success but without any stress, knowing I’ve done the work in training.”

“The Amstel Gold Race seems a pretty nervous kind of race and so suits expert riders, perhaps Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege suited me better. Fleche has an explosive finish, while Liege suits me because it’s about a fight for survival. I’ve ridden Il Lombardia three times and the Clasica San Sebastian once, the racing in the Ardennes is all new to me.”

Aru has picked several riders he intends follow closely during the Ardennes races to make up for his lack of experience. 

“Gerrans seemed on form in the Pais Vasco and he knows how to ride Liege-Bastogne-Liege because he’s won it. Samuel Sanchez of BMC looked sharp too," he pointed out.

"Valverde will also be a key rider to watch and I’m sure he’ll be on form despite not riding the Pais Vasco. I’ll also be watching Michal Kwiatkowski. He’s on form and won the Amstel Gold Race last year.”

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