The Astana rider has not raced since March 11, when he quit Tirreno-Adriatico with a nasty bout of bronchitis. He then hurt his knee during an altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada, which forced him to miss the Giro d'Italia and rethink his season goals. A final blow to Aru's moral came with the tragic death of teammate Michele Scarponi on April 22.
While Tom Dumoulin, Nairo Quintana and former teammate Vincenzo Nibali fought for victory at the Giro d'Italia, Aru gradually recovered from his problems and trained at altitude. He will be part of the Astana team for the Tour de France along with designated team leader Jakob Fuglsang. He will try to get his season back on track at the Critérium du Dauphiné, which begins on Sunday.
"The Dauphiné will immediately show where I am against the best rider in the world. It's a new start for me but I hope to be competitive and up there,” Aru told Gazzetta dello Sport after carrying out a recon ride of stage 9 of the Tour de France with Fuglsang on the way to St. Etienne for the start of the Dauphiné.
"It's like a new start to the season for me, even if I don't want to forget my good performances at the Tour of Oman where I was second on the mountain finish and third overall, and at the Abu Dhabi Tour, where I was sixth on the climb. Those results remain even if a tough spell began soon after. The last few months have been really difficult and then I was hit by Michele Scarponi's death. I was lucky to have a lot of support from my family and friends.”
Tour de France form
Aru has only raced for 16 days so far this season, leaving him in the dark about his form and ability against the likes of Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Richie Porte at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France. His victory in the 2015 Vuelta a España is a fading memory. Aru's last victory came at the 2016 Dauphiné when he won stage 3 with a daring attack on the descent and held off the sprinters.
Aru was the designated team leader for the 2016 Tour de France with Nibali as support. He fought his way to sixth overall after losing time on stage 1, but cracked on the last climb and slipped to finish 13th overall in Paris. He rode the Olympic road race and a series of one-day races until October but failed to land a win. He was hoping to have a better 2017 season after taking over team leadership from Nibali but is now in the dark about his form.
"I still need some time to understand what I can do at the Tour de France. It's difficult to prepare for the Tour with the problems I've faced," Aru argued.
"I've been feeling better day after day even if I don't know how I'll go. I haven't raced against other riders for a long time. I can't wait to start racing but who knows how it will go."