Fabio Aru is ready to work for Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali on the third and decisive stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, but he told Cyclingnews he is ready to step in and also take a leadership role if Nibali is unable to go with the attacks on the 10.8km to Jebel Hafeet. The gradient is gradual at eight per cent for much of the climb, with a short section at 11 per cent before the gradient eases with two kilometres to go. A short descent leads to the kick up to the finish line at altitude of 1,025 metres.
Astana is keen to continue its run of end of season success and hopes the combined strength of Aru and Nibali will give them an advantage on their rivals. Team manager Alexandr Vinokourov arrived at the Abu Dhabi Tour on Friday and expects his Italian team leaders to win yet again after Aru won the Vuelta a Espana and Nibali won Il Lombardia.
Nibali appeared to be feeling the pressure and suffering in the heat and avoided speaking to the media but Aru revealed Astana’s hopes and the riders they fear the most.
“I don’t ever like to say that’ll we’ll win but for sure we’ll put on a show…” he said.
“Vincenzo is on form and he showed it by wining Il Lombardia. I’ve been kept really busy since winning the Vuelta a Espana but I’ve kept training and worked hard too. We’ve raced together in Italy the other week and helped Vincenzo win the Tre Valli Varesine and Diego Rosa won Milan-Turin. I travelled to the Tour of Almaty in Kazakhstan and celebrated my Vuelta win with some sponsors but I’ve kept some form. We’ve spoken a lot about this stage and we’ll both give whatever we can for the other.”
While the sprinters have dominated the open two stages on flat roads, the Grand Tour riders and climbers are expected to emerge from the peloton and race for the stage victory and overall victory in the four-day race. Time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds at the finish will also be a factor. Nibali and Aru are both currently 10 seconds behind race leader Eli Viviani (Team Sky), who has picked up a 10-second time bonus for winning stage three. All their rivals are also ten seconds behind the lead.
“We’ve studied the climb in the race manual and online. The heat will also be a factor. It’s affected everyones recover after just two stages. I think I’ve adapted well but we’ll see how it goes,” Aru said.
“For sure we’ve got to watch our for people like Tom Dumoulin and Esteban Chaves, who both were really strong and pushed me hard at the Vuelta,” Au said, naming their rivals. There are also riders like Wout Poels of Team Sky who is going well and is a good climber. There are a lot of quality riders here who are going well. The climb is long and steady and so it could suit a number of riders. The likes of Diego Ulissi also come to mind. He is on form but had a breathing problem at the World Championships and didn’t show himself. We shouldn’t forget Valverde of course. He’s played down his chances for the Abu Dhabi Tour but he’s always a danger.”
“It should be a good finale despite the heat. I want to do well and so both me and Vincenzo will give it a go.”
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