Astana's Fabio Aru has dedicated his debut Italian national title to late teammate Michele Scarponi. Having taken his first win in over a year, Aru revealed that he had raced in the jersey of his teammate who was killed in an April training ride accident.
Aru made his race winning move on the final climb of the 261km course to arrive in solo Ivrea, pointing to the sky during his victory celebration in recognition of Scarponi.
"During a training ride in Sierra Nevada, Michele Scarponi and I exchanged jerseys because I had the xs size and I wanted to try the s. I haven't told anyone but since I've resumed racing, I've been racing with Michele's jersey. I wanted to offer it after my first victory to his wife Anna and his children Giacomo and Tommaso. Here it is," Aru said after the podium.
With the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia starting on Aru's home island of Sardinia, the 26-year-old had planned to lead the Astana team on home soil. A training ride accident saw Aru pick up a knee injury that then ruled him out of the Giro, forcing a racing programme change and return to the Tour de France.
Having raced the Critérium du Dauphiné in preparation for the Tour where he helped teammate Jakob Fuglsang to the overall win, Aru explained that a recon of the nationals course led him to believe he could become the Italian champion.
"Initially the course might have looked easy but the climb was really hard. On Tuesday, I came to recce it with Paolo [Tiralongo]. From then on, I believed I had my chance to become the Italian champion," said Aru. "I never experienced that before. In the u23, I finished second. That was my best result so far. I'm really happy to have made my dream come true today."
Aru added that he couldn't believe his pre-race plan to attack came off to perfection as he drove the pace all the way to the line for a 40-second victory over Diego Ulissi
"My plan was to go flat out from the bottom of the climb in the last lap. Once I made a gap, I was informed kilometer by kilometer," he added. "I couldn’t believe it when I heard that I was 40 seconds ahead. Looking at the speed, I was always between 50 and 52km/h."
In 2014, former Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali won his first race of the season at the Italian nationals before going on to win four stages and the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Aru will be hoping for a similar fortune, 12-months on from his debut where a jour sans saw him drop from sixth to 13th on the penultimate stage.
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