The 26-year-old Sardinian won the 2015 Vuelta a Espana and took a stage at the Criterium du Dauphine in June as he prepared for the Tour de France. He was Astana's designated team leader for the Grand Boucle but cracked and suffered on stage 20 to Morzine, slipping from sixth 13th overall.
Aru has no ridden a stage race since the Tour de France, preferring one-day races rather than defending his Vuelta success. He finished sixth in the road race at the Rio Olympics after helping team leader and Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali but has only raced five times since then. He was part of the Italian team for Sunday's European Championships and is back in Astana colours for this week's Giro della Toscana - Memorial Alfredo Martini and the Coppa Sabatini. He is set to ride the tough Giro dell’Emilia on Saturday and then other Italian one-day races before Il Lombardia on October 1.
"I'm a Grand Tour rider and always will be but I think I need to experience the world of one day racing to learn and improve as a rider," Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"One day races help you sharpen your ability to read a race, help you handle the fighting for wheels, understand the attacks and things like echelons and splits in the peloton. All that helps your confidence and is a help in the Grand Tours. That's especially been the case in recent years when there have been attacks on the flat roads in the first week."
Aru has occasionally clashed with Nibali as they fought for leadership of the Astana team. However with Nibali moving to Bahrain Merida in 2017, the two have established a far more settled relationship and rode the Tour de France and Olympics together.
"We've spoken a lot this year, we get on now," Aru claimed. "Apart from 2013 when I was a neo-pro and his domestique, we never spent much time together but for the Olympics we spent a lot of time together. He was the one who told me to focus on one-day races as well as stage races. He told me: 'You've got to ride the Amstel Gold Race and the other Ardennes Classics and races like the Clasica San Sebastian. They give you an edge that you can use in Grand Tours.' He's right."
Turning around the season
Aru was in tears when he cracked during stage 20 of the Tour de France. He had built his 2016 season around a good overall classification but his ambitions fell apart on the slopes of the Col de Joux Plane.
"I'm still struggling to get over it, I'm not going to deny it," Aru admitted. "I've thought about it a lot and I've realised I made a lot of mistakes. I didn't know how to handle the flat stages and the windy days were a real eye opener for me."
Aru is hoping the lessons he has learnt can help him win a race in the next few weeks and so turn his season around.
"I'm hungry for some good results. So far it's been negative season for me. I haven't really achieved anything. If there's a chance this week in Tuscany, I'll take it and in every race until the end of the season. I want to finish the season on a high so that I can enjoy the winter and be confident for the 2017 season."
With the 2017 Giro d'Italia starting in Sardinian and celebrating its centenary, Aru is expected to ride the corsa rosa and probably have Nibali as a rival, even if he gives little away of his plans. For sure his race programme will include more Classics.
"We've still got to decide things but I don't want to start the Grand Tours without having won a race," Aru insisted. "I can already confirm that I'm going to ride Milan-San Remo. I've never done it and want to experience the high speed on the coast road, the fighting for position and the tension of the race. I'll also ride the Ardennes. I want to be competitive and start the season on the front foot, to have the confidence for the rest of the season."