Fabio Aru has called on Chris Froome to ride the 2018 Giro d'Italia, hinting he will target the Corsa Rosa next season before also riding the Vuelta a España to prepare for the tough World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.
UAE Team Emirates have also signed Dan Martin and sprinter Alexander Kristoff for 2018, with those two expected to spearhead the team at the 2018 Tour de France, while Aru shows off his Italian national champion's jersey at the Giro d'Italia. Aru is not expected to ride the Tour de France.
Aru took on Froome at this year's Tour de France, winning the first mountain finish at La Planche des Belles Filles and wearing the yellow jersey for two days after Froome struggled in the Pyrenees. He eventually finished fifth overall.
The 27-year-old is hoping to cause the Team Sky leader more problems at the 2018 Giro d'Italia. He made his Grand Tour debut on home roads in 2013 and finished third overall in 2014 and second in 2015 behind Alberto Contador.
"I've heard that he's thinking about it [riding the Giro]. Froome is a great champion and a tough nut. I hope he's at the Giro because it would give the race more prestige and I like the big show down," Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport in a long interview.
The Italian sports newspaper quoted Aru as saying, "I'm putting everything on the Giro" in a headline, but he shied away from confirming as much during the interview before UAE Team Emirates announce their goals. However, Aru seems certain to line-up for the start of the 2018 Giro d'Italia in Israel on May 4. He will attend the route presentation in Milan next Wednesday.
"I can't say if I'll ride the Giro… For sure I'll do the Tour of Abu Dhabi but I don't know if that'll be my season debut," Aru said.
"I'll also ride Tirreno-Adriatico, while there's some doubts between Milan-San Remo and the Volta a Catalunya. The Tour of the Alps is important because a stage will be on the World Championships course, which is a big goal. I'd also like to make my debut at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Vuelta is a must considering the Worlds."
Thanks to Astana
Aru had a contrasting 2017 season. He impressed at the Tour de France, even if his spell in the yellow jersey was short and ended after losing time on the uphill finish to Rodez. His other highlight was victory in the Italian national championships in June, which secured him the iconic green, white and red jersey.
Aru struggled with bronchitis at Tirreno-Adriatico and then crashed while training at altitude in April and was forced to miss the Giro d'Italia.
Aru's time at Astana has ended bitterly, with team manager Alexander Vinokourov threatening legal action for the Sardinian failing to reveal his move to UAE Team Emirates. Aru has played a shrewd game and continues to publicly thank Astana for his years with the team. He also makes it clear he is ready to start a new chapter in his career.
"Astana helped me make my dream of being a professional come true. I've learnt a lot and I'm grateful to the team. However, it's time to make a change, to experience something new," Aru said.
"I'm really sorry [about Vinokourov's legal threats]. He's been a rider but hasn't understood my desire and needs.
"After two podiums at the Giro d'Italia, my victory at the Vuelta a España and my fifth place at the Tour de France, my dimension as a rider has changed. The expectations are higher at my new team but so is my motivation."