Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) tried to disrupt Team Sky’s dominance on the final climb of stage 1 of the Tour of the Alps, making the attack that split the lead group, only to be distanced slightly and then lose four precious seconds in the surge to the finish in Folgaria.
Aru often races with his heart rather than his head and he was clearly keen to test his own form and that of Giro d’Italia rival Chris Froome rather than just look at his power-meter.
The Sardinian sat a few places behind Froome for much of the gradual 19.2km Serrada climb, but then stomped on the pedals with about three kilometres to go to the summit. Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky), perhaps told via team radio, moved across the road to try to block Aru’s surge, but he barged his way through.
Suddenly, the race between the Tour of the Alps favourites and the expected Giro d’Italia contenders seemed to be on. Aru’s attack, however, was but a flicker of aggression. He lacked the power to get away and Froome quickly brought him to heel. In a show of authority he then selected a bigger gear and attacked the Sardinian, taking Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) with him.
Aru was unable to hold the wheels and a gap opened but he was lucky that other chasers closed the gap on the quartet on the descent – otherwise his losses could have been much more than just four seconds.
On crossing the line, Aru rode directly to his hotel in Folgaria, only speaking briefly before heading to his hotel room. He tried to put a positive spin on his first race since quitting the Volta a Catalunya with a muscle injury and concerns about his position on the bike.
“It was a pretty full-on stage, right from the start, but I’m satisfied with how I felt,” Aru said. “I’m lacking a change of pace but that’s what I’m hoping to find during this race. The important thing is that I was up there, that’s the good thing.”
Aru spent time training at altitude after quickly recovering from his Catalunya problems. He leads Italian hopes for the rapidly approaching Giro d’Italia, but still seems to have work to do to be ready for the corsa rosa.
He may struggle to be competitive this week and could be distanced on Tuesday tough finish to Alpe di Pampeago but hopes to find his form for the mountain stages of the Giro d’Italia.
“I want to understand how I’m going. I’m going to focus on the work I need to do, while trying to do my very best,” he said.
Aru is hoping fate and history are on his side.
“The Tour of the Alps or Giro del Trentino as it was called in 2013, was the first race where I really showed what I could do. Vincenzo Nibali was the last Italian to win this race and then a few weeks later went on to win the maglia rosa. It wouldn’t be bad to pull off the same result…”
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