The third and final Grand Tour of the 2015 season had always been Aru’s major goal after the Giro d’Italia but he will now line-up alongside Nibali, who announced he will ride in Spain via Twitter on Friday. Mikel Landa –who finished third overall at the Giro d’Italia but who is set to join Team Sky for 2016, will also be part of the Astana quality line-up as the Kazakhstani team takes on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and perhaps even Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) in late August.
Aru has not raced since finishing second overall behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) at the Giro d’Italia but will make his return at the Tour of Poland that begins on Sunday in Warsaw.
“There’s no risk of a rivalry. It’s better to have Vincenzo as a teammate. It’s the others who will have problems,” Aru suggested to Gazzetta dello Sport in a interview, refusing to reveal any anger that Nibali could affect his chances of winning the Vuelta after finishing fifth last year and winning two stages.
“We’ll be riding to do as well as possible, with one objective. The only rival missing is Alberto Contador and that’s good because I like a direct confrontation with my rivals.
The 2014 Vuelta was an important race for me. I didn’t know if I could handle two Grand Tours in a season and at such a high level but it made me stronger and more convinced of my ability.”
“I spoke to Vincenzo for a long time on the telephone on Thursday. He’s come out of the Tour in good form and his stage win has boosted his moral. He’ll do well at the Vuelta because he one of a few great riders in the peloton. We’re professionals, we know how to work responsibly and we know the rules in the team. We’ve got an excellent relationship even if we haven’t raced together for a long time, apart from the world championships, since the 2013 Giro d’Italia.”
More training than racing
Aru has recently spent 20 days training at altitude in Sestriere. He has only competed 36 days so far in 2015, with the Tour of Poland his only race before the Vuelta. He made his professional debut at the Tour of Poland three years ago but this time leads the Astana squad in the weeklong WorldTour race.
“I haven’t raced much but the races I’ve done have been tough: Paris-Nice, Catalunya and the Giro d’Italia. They’re all WorldTour. I’ll have done about 80 days of training in the mountains. That’s a lot but I’ll be back at Sestriere even before the Vuelta,” the 25 year-old Sardinian explained, convinced his scientific approach leaves him fresh for races.
“I won’t treat Poland as training but I need some racing speed and race rhythm in my legs. I’m not targeting the overall classification but I’d to do well, even if it’s probably impossible. My numbers in training have been good. And I’m at the same level as 2014 and hope to improve even more before the Vuelta. I’ve noticed that my body is becoming more efficient as I get older.”
Aru had a difficult spring after a last-minute stomach virus forced him to miss the Giro del Trentino and affected his form for the Giro d’Italia. He and the Astana team tried to take on Contador but Aru lost vital time in the long time trial stage and was not consistent in the mountains after struggling to recover during the second week. Landa seemed strong in the final week but the Astana team backed Aru and he bounced back to win in Cervinia and then the final mountain stage to Sestriere.
“I learnt a lot at the Giro d’Italia. Things are different when you have to fight to overcome a lot of problems compared to when you’re on form, well trained and things go smoothly,” he explained.
“I was really scared of missing the Giro d’Italia when I was ill and then really suffered on some stages like the time trial and the stage to Verbania. But I fought on and never gave up. Winning in Cervinia was special; it was liberation after my problems. I was angry to lose ao much in the time trial but Contador was far superior that day.”