In a new feature, the Cyclingnews team pick their rider of the day from the Criterium du Dauphine. Fabio Aru is the third rider to be chosen at Criterium du Dauphine, and we will be selecting a rider after each stage.
When Aru attacked on the Côte de Sécheras descent, and began hurtling toward the finish of stage 3 in Touron-sur-Rhone, it was the sprinters' teams, not the overall contenders who began to feel alarm as he opened up first a handful of seconds, then 15 full clicks as the last kilometre drew near.
Aru began the stage 1:27 down on race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), but took a chance on the final climb, entering into a lead split with the likes of teammate Luis Leon Sanchez, Mikel Landa (Sky), Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) and a few others. When the group looked at Astana to do the work, Aru decided to risk life and limb, several times nearly coming to grief on the technical descent, as he rocketed away and let the Katusha-led peloton catch his former companions.
It was a hair-raising descent, with Aru tucked low, seated on his top tube in a style successfully employed in the past by riders like Peter Sagan and Taylor Phinney. Aru's reputation as a descender isn't quite to the level of those two. However, he looked more like Paolo Savoldelli as he blasted around turns, leaning in, nearly scraping abutments.
Aru's ride was impressive, unexpected, and fully deserving of the Rider of the Day prize.
"This morning I thought about trying something," Aru said after the stage. "I came into this race having not raced for a long time. My last race was Amstel Gold and I then spent 23 days training at altitude. So when I arrived here I didn't have the speed in my legs and I lost time in the opening time trial. That stage wasn't really for me."
Indeed, the frustration of Katusha's Alexander Kristoff, when he won the field sprint for second place, two seconds behind Aru, showed that the stage was expected to be one for the sprinters.
"I tried my luck on the climb, and then I decided to push on as hard as I could on the descent but I never imagined it would end up like this," Aru said.
Daniel Benson says: Much of this Dauphine has centred around Contador and Froome with Aru surfing under the radar. His casual demeanour has helped him reduce the pressure but he well and truly made people stand up and take notice of his ride today. Like Nibali in previous Dauphines, Aru will blow hot and cold in this year's edition but today he showed just how much of a potential threat he is for July.