Fabio Aru is set to line up at the 2015 Giro d'Italia as a candidate for leadership at Astana and one of the favourites for the maglia rosa but before he does so, he must piece together his challenge with a number of key stages in his development as rider.
One of those took place earlier this month when then Italian climber visited Specialized’s state of the art wind tunnel facility in Morgan Hill, California.
The 24-year-old Aru finished third at the 2014 edition of the Giro d’Italia and won the stage to Plan di Montecampione. He backed that up with another strong performance at the Vuelta a España and is one of the most promising GC riders in the peloton.
And with next year’s Giro set to feature a 59.2km time trial, it's no surprise that Aru visited the Specialized wind tunnel to work on his positioning on both his time trial and road bikes.
"I've never been to one before, this was my first time," Aru told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview conducted during his visit. "We tested all the bikes, the Shiv TT, the Tarmac, and the Venge. I'll probably be using the Venge in the flatter stages and the Tarmac in the mountains where I'm sure I'll be able to save energy throughout a tour."
While the wind tunnel testing was important in finding the best position on the bike, Aru added there is more to do during the off-season.
"I will try to use the time trial bike more and more during training to get used to the position," he said. "Specialized helps me a lot because the guys are always mapping the parcours and are able to suggest the right setup and materials based on the course characteristics. They're always very attentive to the details.”
Last year, Aru underwent the Body Geometry Fit, which meant that his visit to the wind tunnel this time around was more of a refinement than an overhaul.
"I wanted to improve aerodynamics and efficiency with the different bikes, TT and road, and I wanted to have a comparison with the tests done in the velodrome last year before testing again this year," he said.
Among those on hand during Aru’s visit was Scott Jackson, Specialized’s technical specialist, who has worked with an array of riders including Tony Martin, Alberto Contador and Mark Cavendish.
“Working with an athlete like Fabio is always a treat. We had the opportunity to speak to him about his 2015 season goals and bring him to our wind tunnel to begin working on them. In particular we have really been looking at improving Fabio’s TT position, although we had already started to work on it during the 2014 season with testing on the velodrome. Coming to the wind tunnel was really our chance to refine the work done last season and set Fabio up for a stellar 2015,” Jackson told Cyclingnews.
Aru pedalled nearly 150 kilometres during his tests in Morgan Hill, providing the aerodynamics team with sufficient data to make any needed tweaks to his riding position.
"With Fabio, the goal was to maximize his performance at his target race for 2015,” aerodynamics specialist Chris Yu told Cyclingnews. "This involved improving his efficiency in road stages so that he can save as much energy as possible during the three weeks as well as maximizing his speed for the long time trial.
"Fabio was super excited to test many different race setups and at the end of the day he pedaled nearly 150km in the wind tunnel! We're very excited about the data that was collected which will allow Fabio and S-Racing to choose the optimal setup for every race next season."
Aru’s performances in the time trials at the Giro d’Italia were impressive. However with the likes of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador toying with the idea of riding the race next year, Aru is aware that he must take another step forward.
“I do have to improve a lot, but I did it step by step this year and I think that I’ll be able to do more with little adjustments,” he said.
And the Italian firmly believes that any work he puts into his time trial efforts will not have a destabilising effect on his ability to climb. “The TT is fundamental in a Grand Tour. Certainly more time gaps can be created in a time trial stage versus a mountain one but I won’t ignore the uphill work.
“For next year’s Giro time trial the first 30km are flat but then it’s an up and down. It’s not just for specialists. Nonetheless I'll certainly need to work hard to improve and close the gap.”
Leadership for the Giro d’Italia
Astana have yet to confirm their objectives for next season, with Vincenzo Nibali weighing up his options and mulling over whether he can target the defence of his Tour de France crown and have another tilt at the Giro, a race he won in 2013. Aru has already stated his desire to lead the team in a Grand Tour with one option being that Nibali could support his younger teammate in May before a role reversal in July.
Asked if he was confident of leading Astana at the Giro next year, Aru answered: “I’ve always loved responsibility, I am here for that. All riders ride to win and if you do you’re asked to have responsibilities. I am ready. Everyone starts to win.”
As for Nibali, Aru was supportive of his teammate's achievements and goals: “He showed himself as one of the strongest riders in the peloton with three Grand Tour victories. I don’t know his plans for next season but I think he’ll want to confirm the Tour victory. He’s a true professional, though. I have no doubt he’ll do what the team will ask him to do.”
Click here for the full gallery of Fabio Aru's stint in the wind tunnel.