Fabio Aru looks set to make his debut at the Tour de France in 2016, with his coach Maurizio Mazzoleni convinced the Sardinian can follow in the footsteps of fellow Astana team leader Vincenzo Nibali and become a contender for overall victory. Mazzoleni usually avoids the spotlight but has played a vital role in helping Aru develop as a Grand Tour rider and coached him throughout the 2015 season as he fought with Alberto Contador at the Giro d’Italia and then beat Tom Dumoulin to win the Vuelta a Espana.
Mazzoleni runs a coaching centre called Modus Vivendi near Bergamo, close to where Aru was based before moving to Lugano in Switzerland. Aru once preferred to spend the winter riding a 'cross or mountain bike but Mazzoleni has convinced him to also work in the gym on his core and body strength. After a holiday, Aru will soon be back in the gym, preparing for 2016.
“When he first came to the gym he didn’t know what to do and even struggled to do some core exercises correctly. When we look at the photos from back then in 2012, we can see how he’s developed,” Mazzoleni told the Tuttobiciweb, giving a coaches’ view on Aru’s ability and 2015 season.
“I like linear progress rather exploits and Fabio has followed a constant development with his group of riders at Astana. At the 2014 Giro d’Italia he won a stage and was third overall. He also tested himself in two Grand Tours in the same season and reached two big peaks in form, finishing fifth in the Vuelta and winning a stage. This year he won two stages at the Giro and was second overall behind a rider of the calibre of Contador. Then in Spain he proved his ability by winning the Vuelta.”
Mazzoleni revealed some of Aru’s physiological data.
“During the Vuelta he was a pretty high level. He was at his best ever in the time trial and held 350/360 watts for more than 40 minutes,” Mazzoleni said. “On the climbs he was at his best, going over 6 w/kg. He also showed his climbing skills and lactic acid resistance on long climbs. In the Vuelta he also showed he learnt to manage his efforts on the all important mountain finishes.”
Targeting the Tour de France
The Astana team will finalise its objectives and rider programmes at a winter get together in Montecatini Terme, in Tuscany, in late November. However, team manager Alexandre Vinokourov has already hinted he wants Nibali to target the Giro d’Italia, while Aru makes his debut at the Tour de France. Aru has refuted that any final decision has been made but Mazzoleni believes the 25-year-old Sardinian is ready to get a taste of the Grand Boucle before targeting overall victory in the years to come.
The 2016 Tour de France appears to suit Aru, with limited time trials and lots of mountain stages.
“Winning a Grand Tour changes you both physically and mentally. We’ve added another Brick to Aru’s build. He’s finished on the podium three times in five Grand Tours and is now more confident of his own ability,” Mazzoleni explained.
“Of course he’s still relatively young and there are still things we need to work on, including his time trialing and ability on steep finishes. In lots of ways Fabio is developing like Nibali did. They won the Vuelta at the same age. There’s a lot of talk about their rivalry but there’s not much truth to it. Aru even gave Nibali a red jersey after he won the Vuelta and Vincenzo was one of the first to congratulate him on his win. They’re two great riders that we’ve got to look after carefully. Italy should be proud to have them.
“Fabio still not physically fully mature but that will make it extremely interesting to work with him. He’s got the numbers to be a real champion and the mentality to back it up. The truth is we don’t really know his limits.
“We still don’t know the rider’s final race programme and goals but Fabio is ready to see what he can do at the Tour de France. 2016 will be about success but also about experience. If he targets the Tour, he knows he can do well but will not have the pressure on his shoulders to win on his debut. But he is able to handle the pressure, motivate his group of teammates and hit peak form. It’s only right he aims high in 2016.”