Aru to ride Paris-Nice on the road to targeting the Tour de France

Vuelta a Espana winner opts for international race programme in 2016

Fabio Aru is set to ride Paris-Nice in 2016 as he prepares for his Tour de France debut as team leader for the Astana team, with the Italian national championships probably his only race in Italy before targeting the yellow jersey in July.

Aru is currently training in Calpe, Spain, with his Astana teammates, enjoying the so-far mild southern European winter before flying to the colder conditions of Kazakhstan for the team’s official presentation on December 12. The only disruption to Astana’s training appears to be the freak accident that left domestique Alessandro Vanotti with a fractured shin.

The Astana riders have been clocking up the kilometres in Calpe, doing rides of up to four hours in the hills and along the Spanish coast. In 2015 Aru focused on training and only raced for 15 days before starting the Giro d’Italia. He made his late season debut at Paris-Nice, finishing an anonymous 39th in the final classification. Things will be different in 2016. Aru is now an affirmed Grand Tour winner after snatching victory at the Vuelta a Espana and has been given protected status for the Tour de France.

With teammate Vincenzo Nibali following a largely Italian race programme (Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro del Trentino) and targeting the Giro d’Italia in May, the two will rarely race together in 2016. They only expected to come together for Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Italian national road race championships and perhaps the Tour de France, when Nibali will ride in support of Aru as he prepares for the Rio Olympic road race.

Aru will return to Paris-Nice in 2016 according to a report in Gazzetta dello Sport after making his season debut early in February at the Vuelta Valenciana (February 3-7). He will also ride the Volta Algarve (February 17-21), where he is expected to clash with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) in the hope of being on form and an overall contender for Paris-Nice.

The 25-year-old Sardinian will then ride Vuelta Pais Vasco (April 4-9) as final preparation for Fleche Wallonne (April 20) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 24). He will not ride the Tour de Romandie and is expected to ride the Criterium du Dauphine (June 5-12) as his final preparation for the Tour de France. Training camps at altitude are likely to fills the gaps between Aru’s key goals and stage races.

"My season will be built around being at my best for the Tour de France but I'm almost going to have a pretty busy early season until the Classics.” Aru said at the Astana team’s recent get together in Montecatini Terme, before travelling to Calpe. |I'll do a lot of races I haven't done before in 2016 and so they'll all be interesting to discover and give me some extra motivation."

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