Aru sat next to new world champion Peter Sagan, with Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) close by. Other possible overall contenders for the new four-day race included fellow Vuelta revelations Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). Also invited to the press conference were Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Elia Viviani (Team Sky), Tom Boonen and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), who all attended the pre-race press conference.
While most riders arrived overnight from Europe, Aru travelled from Kazakhstan after riding the Tour of Almaty and meeting several Astana sponsors to celebrate his Vuelta victory. Since pulling on the red winner's jersey in Madrid, Aru has been busy with television appearances in Italy but has kept training and showed his form in last week's Tre Valli Varesine and Milano-Torino races. He helped Nibali win in Varese and then finished third on the uphill finish overlooking Turin after helping teammate Diego Rosa go clear in the finale to win alone.
Aru hinted that the Astana team will be looking to continue their run of end of season success at the Abu Dhabi Tour. The presence of Aru, Nibali and Diego Rosa in the Astana line-up confirms their intentions and having two leaders and three strong climbers could prove decisive on the 11km climb at the end of Saturday's third stage to Jabel Hafeet. The finish is at an altitude of 1,025 metres and has an average gradient of 7.5%. The other three stages of the race are on flat roads and perfect for the sprinters if cross winds and echelons are not a factor but the mountain finish will decide who takes home the special Ferrari designed winner's trophy.
"Despite being tired after a long season, I'm happy to be here. As a team we can do well," Aru said with decision during the press conference.
"I've kept training since the Vuelta but I've also been kept very busy. I've just been in Kazakhstan for four days, spending time with the sponsors. But I'll do as well as I can, like always. Vincenzo won a great Lombardia. We'll see how I feel but I've no problem in helping Vincenzo. It's important we have a good race. We get on despite what people think. I was really happy to work for him at the Tre Valli Varesine race and he won it. There are absolutely no problems between us."
Aru seemed aware that Nibali had stolen a march and set a trap for his younger teammate at Monday's Giro d'Italia presentation by saying he hopes to target the Italian race in 2016, with Aru perhaps making his debut at the Tour de France.
"Where did you hear that?" Aru asked when questioned about the Tour de France.
"We'll have a team get together at the end of November to decide things. The Tour de France route is not out yet…"
Pushed further, Aru admitted he liked the Giro d'Italia route, suggesting he would like a shot at winning the maglia rosa after being beaten by Alberto Contador this year.
"The Giro route is hard but I like it. Let me see the Tour de France route and talk to the team," he pleaded. "The important thing is to be pretty much ready for any races you do but I don't know where I'll start my 2016 season."