Fabio Aru lost more than two minutes to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and lost his second place overall to Astana teammate Mikel Landa after suffering on the steep slopes of the Mortirolo and the climb to the finish in Aprica. Yet the young Italian was relieved to have limited his losses after the finale of the race became a battle for survival.
“I suffered for 40km and I could have lost 20 minutes,” Aru admitted after the stage, speaking briefly to Italian television before heading to his nearby hotel to recover from his huge effort.
“It honestly wasn’t one of the best days of my career. I suffered a lot and I rode more with my head than my legs. I fought all the way to the line so that I didn’t lose everything.”
Aru has struggled since stage 11 to Imola but had managed to limit his losses and insisted he had only suffered in the last five kilometres of the stage to Vicenza after failing to eat enough. However, Contador exposed his real level of form in the 59.4km time trial to Valdobbiadene and Aru opted to tame his aggressive riding. He managed to hang on to Contador on the first mountain stage to Madonna di Campiglio but was found out on the double-digit gradient of the Mortirolo after Contador angrily chased through the peloton after Astana went on the attack when he stopped to change a wheel. Contador did not hesitate to drop Aru and then worked hard to distance him on the long ride to Aprica.
Aru bravely refused to give up, even when other riders caught and passed him, but lost 2:13 to Contador at the finish in Aprica. Landa gained even more by winning the stage and so jumped past his team leader to inherit second place, 4:02 behind Contador. Aru is now third at 4:52, with Andrey Amador (Movistar) not too far behind, at 56 seconds, and so perhaps a threat to his place on the final podium in Milan.
Aru has always been Astana’s designated team leader for the Giro d’Italia but conceded his leadership to Landa.
“Mikel was feeling good and so it was right he got to play his cards. He won the stage and if someone is feeling better than you, team leader orders go by the way. That’s only fair,” Aru said.
“Now I just want to think about recovering for the next few days, I’m really tired, I did a huge effort. It was a kind of effort that you can only make on a bike.”
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