The 24-year-old Sardinian was happy to speak for close to 30 minutes in a side room in the Astana hotel but carefully avoided promising to produce an impresa, a defiant aggressive attack, perhaps on the Mortirolo on Tuesday, to try to crack Alberto Contador.
“Lets see how I feel tomorrow,” he warned, aware of the fatigue he has accumulated during the first two weeks of the Giro d’Italia as he tried to take on Contador.
“I’d love to try an impresa, it’d be motivating and these are perhaps the stages to do it if you’re feeling good. But lets remember that were racing against Alberto Contador. I’ve never lost hope and never will but we know that Alberto is on great form and can control things even if he’s isolated from his teammates. We haven’t talked tactics yet and it’s not easy to plan ahead in the third week of the Giro. You could have a crisis at any moment.”
Aru showed his maturity by pointing out he prefers to develop and progress gradually as rider, perhaps by finishing second to Contador, rather than pulling off an exploit.
“The fans and the media always expect you do something special but when I was ill before the Giro del Trentino I stayed focused because I’ve always wanted to confirm what I’ve achieved so far in my career. I think that’s important. I don’t want to pull off an exploit and then disappear. I’m here fighting in the Giro and will try to give it everything in the final days but I don’t want to promise anything.”
“I’m not presumptuous. Your body isn’t like a car; you can’t just top it up. For quite a few days I struggled but I was really enthusiastic at the start of the Giro. I’ve perhaps paid for that a little.”
Extra lustre from Contador’s presence
Aru and his Astana team would arguably be in charge of the Giro if Contador was not in the race. However he claimed Contador’s presence helps to highlight the quality of his own performance. Despite only riding his second Giro d’Italia as a team leader, he has proven he is the best of rest behind Contador, while the likes of Richie Porte (Team Sky) and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quickstep) have all stumbled.
“I don’t want to seem big headed but I’m happy that Contador is at the Giro. He’s a ‘mostro sacro’ –a legend, of cycling. I learnt a lot by racing against him, Froome and Valverde at last year’s Vuelta and I’ve learnt more this year at the Giro,” he said.
Aru appears to know he has time on his side. He started road racing relatively late for an Italian after focusing on cyclo-cross until he was 19. He admitted that there is only a slim chance he will ride the Tour de France after the Giro d’Italia. Instead he is expected to continue his Grand Tour development by again riding the Vuelta a Espana for a second year.
He admitted that his performance in the long time trial was not good enough to ensure he could compete with Contador for the maglia rosa and that he made an unforgiveable mistake by not eating during the final of the rain-soaked stage to Vicenza.
“I paid for it by losing time but less than I could have,” he admitted. “When I realised at five kilometres to go, I could have lost a lot. It was my mistake but a pro can’t make mistakes like that.”
Tackling the Mortirolo and teammate Mikel Landa
There was no mention of the fatigue that Aru apparently suffered on the stage to Imola. He is hoping the second rest day in Madonna di Campiglio will help him recover in time for Tuesday’s stage over the Mortirolo and then the final mountain stages to Cervinia and to Sestriere.
“The Mortirolo is a legendary climb. I’ve done it once from this same side and it’s very hard. It also comes after two weeks of racing, after three earlier climbs after the rest day. It could cause a big selection and if you’re suffering you could be pay big time.”
Aru again played down any rivalry with teammate Mikel Landa or question about his loyalty after Contador was seen giving him a congratulatory hug after his win in Madonna di Campiglio.
“I don’t see anything behind it all, just a sincere congratulation form Alberto. He’s like that, he’s a gentleman. He often congratulates me and calls me campeon,” Aru revealed.
“Landa has shown he’s very strong. He deserved to win, was strong at the Giro del Trentino and is in great form here. I’m happy he’s a teammate and not a rival…”