Ahead of Astana's first gathering of the new campaign in Montecatini Terme this week, Fabio Aru has said that he is happy to line up at the 2015 Giro d'Italia as team leader and then ride in support of Vincenzo Nibali at the Tour de France.
Nibali has already hinted that he is once again likely to forgo the Giro in order to focus on the defence of his Tour title and it is expected that Aru will instead be handed leadership of the Astana team for the corsa rosa. The Sardinian finished in third place at this year's Giro and won the stage to Montecampione.
"We'll decide everything during the training camp in Montecatini," Aru told Tuttobici. "For my part, the responsibility doesn't scare me. In fact, I'm happy to have it because it means that the team believes in me."
Aru predicted that the individual time trial to Valdobbiadene, stage 16 over the Mortirolo and the summit finish at Sestriere on stage 20 will be the Giro's three most decisive days. He produced a solid display in the Giro time trial to Barolo last May but he is aware that the long test on stage 14 ought to make an even greater impact on the outcome of the race.
"I like the route of the 2015 Giro. It's hard and the total altitude gain is higher compared to 2014. The 60km time trial doesn't frighten me and we're looking at a targeted preparation to tackle it as best we can," he said.
In 2014, Aru followed his Giro podium finish with a solid outing at the Vuelta a España, where he took fifth place overall and claimed two stage wins on summit finishes. Next year, he is open to the prospect of lining up at the Tour in the service of Nibali – provided, of course, that the UCI's Licence Commission rubber stamps Astana's place in the WorldTour despite the recent spate of positive tests on the team.
"It's a possibility that should be evaluated and planned carefully. Perhaps we'll talk about it in the coming days but for me there wouldn't be problems," Aru said of the prospect of riding the Tour. "After the Giro and Vuelta, it's an experience that I want to have. Even though the French race is an unknown for me from a sporting point of view, its fascination is undeniable."
Aru was speaking at an event at the monastery of Santa Lucia alla Castellina near Florence, where he was presented with the "Coraggio e Avanti" award as the best young Italian rider of 2014. Astana coach Paolo Slongo was honoured for his work with Aru and Nibali, while Luca Paolini was feted for his lengthy career.
Despite serious doping allegations and links to blood doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes during his world championship-winning season, which were outlined in considerable detail by Gazzetta dello Sport last year, Mario Cipollini was presented with a new "Azzurri d'talia" prize dedicated to the memory of the late Italian national coach Alfredo Martini, who died in August.