Fabio Aru laughed out loud when it was pointed out that he could be the only big-name rival to Chris Froome at the 2018 Giro d'Italia. He seemed slightly scared by the idea of taking on Froome and Team Sky but insisted that Froome’s presence will only make the Giro d'Italia a better, more spectacular race.
Aru and his new UAE-Team Emirates squad are expected to confirm the Giro d'Italia as the focus of his season, with fellow new Grand Tour leader Dan Martin likely to focus on the Tour de France.
Froome's presence at the Giro d'Italia could dissuade other riders from heading to Italy and convince them they may have a better chance of winning the Tour de France as Froome goes for the double. Tom Dumoulin has put off revealing his plans until the Team Sunweb presentation in early January, while Vincenzo Nibali seemed nonplussed. Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) and Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data) are expected to ride the Giro d'Italia, but Froome and Aru could be the only previous Grand Tour winners to line up in Israel for the race.
La Gazzetta dello Sport recently quoted Aru as saying he is 'putting everything on the Giro' and he did not shy away from the fight.
"Froome is a great rider but the Giro d'Italia is a big race, it's about more than one rider. I think it's good he's riding, his presence makes the Giro d'Italia an even bigger race. It's always spectacular but will be even more so now," Aru told Cyclingnews.
Froome was absent when Aru won the 2015 Vuelta a Espana. His best performance against the Briton at the Tour de France was his fifth place this year, but he finished second to Alberto Contador in the 2015 Giro d'Italia and was third behind Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran in 2014. Froome rode the Giro d'Italia in 2009 and 2010, but that was before he developed into a Grand Tour winner.
"Froome has shown he can overcome the difficulties that Grand Tours throw at you. Each of the Grand Tours are different. Now we'll find out if him and Team Sky can handle the Giro d'Italia. It should be a great race," Aru said.
The Giro d'Italia route
Aru insisted he liked the design of the route of the 2018 Giro d'Italia. The eight mountain finishes suit his climbing skills but the 34.5km time trial from Trento to Rovereto will be a serious handicap, especially with Froome likely to gain time on all his rivals.
"There are a lot of climbs. Fortunately I know almost of them and that perhaps gives me a slight advantage," Aru said.
"I've been to Etna and I've trained on all of the big climbs of the final stages in Piedmont over the years. The early mountain finishes mean you have to be on form right from the start.
"The time trial is for specialists like Froome and so doesn't suit me, but there's not much I can do about that except keep working on my time trial skills."
Aru will soon join up with his new UAE Team Emirates teammates for a December training camp in Sicily. He is already back in training and working hard for a new chapter in his career after six seasons at Astana and a painful divorce from the Kazakhstani team.
"My holidays ended 20 days ago and so it's time to start to think about 2018," he concluded.