Fabio Aru could miss the Giro d'Italia and target the Tour de France alongside new teammate Dan Martin as the UAE Team Emirates look for global exposure in the sport's biggest Grand Tour and carefully study the race routes and their rivals' plans.
Aru seemed set to ride the Giro d'Italia, with Martin team leader for the Tour de France alongside new sprint leader Alexander Kristoff. However, those reports have never been confirmed by the team, with the UAE Team Emirates management deferring any final decision until the New Year. There is a real possibility that commercial and sporting interests could lead to UAE Team Emirates sending their three big-name signings to the 2018 Tour de France.
It appears that the team's UAE backers and sponsors understand that the Tour de France offers a far more visibility and prestige than the Giro d'Italia, with the week-long Abu Dhabi Tour on home roads in February perhaps equally as important as success at the Giro d'Italia in May.
"It's important to plan your goals and especially those of your team leaders really carefully. It's important to study the routes and compare them to the riders' ability and style of racing," Giuseppe Saronni told Cyclingnews after he and fellow managers Carlo Saronni and Mauro Gianetti travelled to Sicily over the weekend to see the riders at a December training camp.
"Until there's not a final no (to the Tour de France), then there could be yes. The importance of the Tour de France is a key factor. We've got to consider the Tour first but it's a very difficult and delicate decision. It's up to our technical staff and the riders to consider things. The 2018 Tour de France seems to be designed really well for the climbers and for riders like Fabio Aru as well as Dan Martin. The time trial is hard and includes four climbs; it's not really suited to time trial specialists. It's more suited to climbers.
"That's why the final decision will be taken further ahead, probably in the New Year. We're going to take extra time to carefully evaluate every aspect because it's a very important decision. We want the riders to compete in the races that suit them best."
Saronni made it clear they are not shying away from taking on Chris Froome (Team Sky) or any other big-name rival at the Giro d'Italia. They simply want to fully understand their chances of success before making a final decision.
Other teams seem to be making similar choices. Froome's much-vaunted appearance at the Giro d'Italia depends on the outcome of his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol. He could ride while awaiting the final verdict, be cleared in time for the start in Israel on May 4 or be forced to miss the race due to a suspension.
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) has opted to target the Tour de France to appease his sponsors, while Movistar plan to field the trident of Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde at the Tour de France.
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) will focus on the Tour de France, as will Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac), with Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) apparently leaning towards a first shot at overall victory in July. Only Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) is tempted to go for the Giro-Tour, with Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates flying the flag for Mitchelton-Scott at the 2018 Giro d'Italia.
Aru to debut at Abu Dhabi Tour
Aru would like to return to the Giro d'Italia after missing this year's race and Grande Partenza at home in Sardinia due to a knee injury. However, he finished fifth in the Tour de France, won the stage to La Planche des Belle Filles and wore the leader's yellow jersey for two days.
Aru confirmed to Cyclingnews he will ride the Vuelta a Espana but is happy for UAE Team Emirates to have a major say in his first Grand Tour goals of 2018.
"I'll ride the Vuelta a Espana to prepare for the World Championships in Innsbruck, but we haven't yet decided on the Giro and Tour," Aru said, unperturbed about adjusting his pre-season training and racing calendar in the new year. "For sure I'll make my season debut in the UAE Team Emirates jersey at the Abu Dhabi Tour, but we still haven't taken a final decision on my full Grand Tour programme. Everything else will come as a consequence of that decision.
"I think both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France routes are beautiful and suit me quite well next season. I like them all three Grand Tours and that's why it's difficult to make a final choice."