Astana have downplayed reports that Fabio Aru could recover from his knee injury and possibly start the Giro d'Italia, pointing out that his injury and long spell off the bike have seriously compromised his early season form.
The Sardinian crashed at an altitude training camp on April 2 after a tyre blow out, suffering knee cartilage damage. Aru and the Astana team confirmed on April 10 that he would miss the Giro d'Italia, with Michele Scarponi promoted as new team leader for the corsa rosa.
Scarponi won the opening stage of the Tour of the Alps on Monday, giving Astana its first road race win of 2017. On Tuesday, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that the veteran Italian had revealed that Aru has in fact not given up hope of riding the Giro.
"I believe that Aru is working hard to try and recover, so he can be at the start. It all depends on what the doctors say but if he makes it, I'd be really happy," La Gazzetta quoted Scarponi as saying.
Aru also fuelled the tifosi's hopes of seeing him line-up in Sardinia on May 5 by posting a tweet of him undergoing a long physiotherapy session on Easter Monday. La Gazzetta quoted him as saying: "Me at the Giro? I'd love to be there. But the doctors tell me not to do anything crazy."
The reports sparked speculation that Aru could at least start the Giro d'Italia in front of his local fans in Sardinia, possibly with the hope of finding some form during the three weeks of racing and so perhaps target a stage victory or build his form for the Tour de France.
However, Astana poured cold water on the theory before the start of stage 2 of the Tour of the Alps, when asked by Cyclingnews.
An Astana team representative pointed that that Aru has not raced since quitting Tirreno-Adriatico with bronchitis on March 12 and that he has now not ridden his bike since April 2. He needs further time off the bike for his knee to fully recover, leaving little time to find sufficient form to even start an intense three-week Grand Tour.
The Astana team does not want to risk further injury to their team leader just to see him line-up in Sardinia. It is far more likely that Aru will ride the Tour de France along with designated team leader Jakob Fuglsang and/or target the Vuelta a España. Aru won the Spanish Grand Tour in 2015.
The Astana team said it preferred to stick to the original statement of team manager Alexander Vinokourov. "Fabio has to pass the full treatment and recovery from his injury, so he won't be able to start in his home race. For all of us, his good and full recovery comes first, while his future race calendar will depend on the time of his recovery and the results in the first races afterwards," Vinokourov said last week.
"Despite this unhappy situation, we don't talk about any great changes in our program. We are looking forward to the Giro d'Italia with the team we have, as well as to the Tour de France where Jakob Fuglsang, as was planned, is preparing to take a leading spot."