For most overall contenders at the Criterium du Dauphine the loss of 21 seconds would come as a major blow but Fabio Aru (Astana) took it all in his stride as he warmed down on the rollers after a difficult second stage.
“I lost maybe 18 or 20 seconds,” he almost nonchalantly told Cyclingnews as he warmed down on the rollers with teammates.
The stage was won by Movistar’s Jesus Herrada, who timed his acceleration to the line with perfect precision. The GC riders: Alberto Contador, Chris Froome and Richie Porte, finished safely at the front of the bunch. Aru, however, was held up by a late crash involving Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale). The time loss leaves Aru 32nd, 1:27 behind Contador.
“I’m getting better each day but the focus is always about the Tour de France but I can feel that I’m getting stronger with each passing day,” Aru added from the rollers.
The Dauphine marks an important juncture in the Italian’s season. His last race came at Amstel Gold which ended with a DNF next to his name, while the last month has been dominated by a 23-day stint of altitude training in the Italian ski resort of Sestriere. For the 25-year-old this year has been a complete contrast to 2015, when by this point he had finished second in the Giro d’Italia and had his feet up by June.
This year he has taken a similar approach to the Dauphine as his teammate Vincenzo Nibali in the past, who targeted the Tour de France for several seasons before turning his attention to the Giro d’Italia this year. The two Astana riders have swapped Grand Tour objectives and race programmes.
“If I’ve got the condition and my legs are feeling good then of course I’ll try and do something later in the race,” he added.
“There are three tough days at the end of the race, and that’s where I could potentially ride for a stage win.”
Astana’s Dmitri Fofonov echoed his rider’s sentiments and downplayed any concerns over Aru’s current form.
“This is his first race since the spring. Since then he has trained well and looked after himself. Now he just needs to stay in the peloton and ride safe. He lost some time today but I didn’t see the finale. I think he was held up by the Bardet crash and that caused some splits. It’s just a few seconds and it was down to that fall.”
The Criterium du Dauphine continues Wednesday with stage 3 from Boën-sur-Lignon to Tournon-sur-Rhône. Cyclingnews will have complete live coverage.