Fabio Aru (Astana) has said that he is hoping to get a chance to face off against his former teammate Mikel Landa in 2016. Landa rode in support of Aru during the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, which was won by the Italian, last year. Landa has since moved to Team Sky this season, where he will get his chance to lead a team at a Grand Tour.
“Mikel sacrificed his personal ambitions to help me to achieve my goals,” Aru said in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS. “I hold a lot of love and admiration for that, but I would like us to face each other as adversaries in a race.”
Aru and Landa came close to being rivals at the Giro d’Italia, the race that brought the Spaniard to the attention of many. Aru had gone into the race as the sole leader, but Landa put himself into contention when he won two stages and ended up moving ahead of Aru in the overall classification. As Aru seemed to be crumbling, Landa was on the rise, but team orders would eventually come into play, and the former would beat the latter in the overall classification following a resurgence in the final week.
Aru denied that there was any tension between the two and also spoke of his mutual admiration with other Astana leader Vincenzo Nibali. “Our roles are defined, and we respect them. In races, many things can happen, and the team wouldn’t have had any problems with the captaincy of the Vuelta if Nibali had continued in the race.
“Mutual admiration,” he said when asked about his relationship with Nibali. “Vincenzo has given me good recommendations. We are both professionals and share the responsibility for Astana’s victories.”
Nibali and Aru will ride different programmes in 2016 before meeting at the Tour de France and then the Olympics when they compete for their National team. Nibali began his season at the Tour de San Luis and will target the Giro d’Italia. Aru has opted to remain in Europe for his season opener at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana this week. In the interview, he names the Tour de France and the Rio Olympics, unsurprisingly, as his main aims for the season.
“I would love to achieve good results earlier in the Basque Country or the Ardennes Classics,” he adds. “This season I hope to have a good preparation, as I did last winter, and to continue in this direction of growth.”
Aru’s visit to the Tour de France will be his first, after riding both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana on multiple occasions. The 25-year-old had his coming of age at last year’s Vuelta where he beat Joaquim Rodriguez to claim his first Grand Tour title. The result ensures that there will be plenty of attention on his performance in July, but it has also had an effect on him off the bike.
“I’ve noticed that people recognise me easier now,” Aru explained. “I was in a bar in Alicante (where the team trains over the winter), and the owner was surprised. ‘But you’re Aru, Congratulations for the Vuelta.’ Things like this make you hope. It is the advertising commitments that I dislike the most, but I try to do it with a smile. You always have to take the good things, and the support of the tifosi make me proud.”