Fabio Aru says that he will approach the up and coming Volta ao Algarve with ‘grit’ as he hopes to continue a steady progression of form towards the Giro d’Italia in May. Aru will lead a youthful UAE Team Emirates squad at the Portuguese race, one that will include rising Classics star Jasper Philipsen.
Aru had a difficult 2018 campaign that left him with disappointing appearances at the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. With this in mind, the team decided to give him a considerably lighter race programme ahead of his return to the corsa rosa. UAE Team Emirates has undergone a shake-up during the winter, with team manager Giuseppe Saronni retiring and new directeur sportif, coaching and medical staff brought in.
Aru began his season at Challenge Mallorca at the end of January, taking part in two of the four races. His performances were quiet but solid, and the Italian hopes to build upon that in his second contest of the year. It will be the first time since 2016 that Aru has ridden the Volta ao Algarve.
“After the good start in the Mallorca Challenge, I expect that I will find even more good feelings to confirm the rise in my condition,” Aru said. “The Volta offers stages that should provide a good testing ground. Like always, I’m going to ride with grit and go for it in the stages most suited to my abilities.”
Neo-pro Philipsen will line-up alongside Aru for his final race before he starts his spring Classics campaign at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The 20-year-old made his first appearance with the team at the Tour Down Under last month and made an early mark on the season with victory on the penultimate stage, beating Peter Sagan in the process.
Last year’s Tour de l’Avenir winner Tadej Pogacar also made his team debut at the Tour Down Under, finishing a creditable 13th, and will join Aru and Philipsen on the squad in the Algarve. The five-day race will be an invaluable experience for the young Slovenian. Meanwhile, Valerio Conti and Simone Consonni come to the Algarve after beginning their year at the Vuelta a San Juan.
At 31, Kristijan Durasek is the oldest member of the seven-man squad and will provide some experience to what is a young team. Simone Petilli completes the line-up for the Portuguese race.
The Volta ao Algarve will start on Wednesday, February 20 with a lumpy stage from Portimᾶo to Lagos that should lend itself to the fast finishers. The stage 2 summit finish to Fóia will be the first chance for riders such as Aru to have a go at a stage win. The midway point of the race is marked by a 20.3km time trial before another lumpy sprint stage. The race concludes with the traditional summit finish on the Malhᾶo.
Cyclingnews will have daily race reports, news and interviews from the race.
UAE Team Emirates for the Volta ao Algarve: Fabio Aru, Simone Consonni, Valerio Conti, Kristijan Durasek, Simone Petilli, Tadej Pogacar and Jasper Philipsen.