The UAE Team Emirates climber came away with an eighth-place finish, just over a minute down on stage winner Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick Step). Although he recognises there's room for improvement, it augered well for what is a key year for Aru.
Aru's contract with UAE Team Emirates runs out at the end of this season and he told Cyclingnews he has yet to get a deal in place for 2021 - but that for now, in any case, he's fully focussed on results. At Picón Blanco, at the least, that strategy paid off well.
"To be honest, maybe if I'd finished in the top five, I'd have been a bit happier but in any case, I was up there close to the top riders and for the first race back, it's not bad," Aru told Cyclingnews.
"It's been very hard here at Burgos, with the wind, the echelons and the heat, so a place in the top ten is worth a lot because the level is so high."
The 2015 Vuelta a España winner and 2017 Tour de France leader recognised that this year he is not the only big hitter looking for a key result in a comparatively short space of time. And as such, he says, the peloton has, to a man, hit the ground running.
"We've come at a very, very high level. And I've seen there's a bit more 'tension', in inverted commas, in the peloton because there isn't a lot of time left in the season. So people have a lot of desire to do well, which automatically raises the level a lot."
Aru himself is not going to be letting the clock tick by in the weeks ahead, with a very intense race program on the cards. Set to co-lead UAE Team Emirates at the Tour de France, he says he'll be doing the Mont Ventoux Challenge (August 6th), the Tour de l'Ain (August 7th-9th), Gran Piamonte (August 12th), Il Lombardia (August 15th) and the National Championships (August 23rd) before heading for the Tour de France Grand Depart in Nice the following weekend.
All of this intensive race build-up is set against a longer-term backdrop of where Aru will be racing in 2021. August 1 marks the opening of contract season, but Aru says there's nothing yet on the table. "I haven't spoken about contracts at all in these past few months," he observes, "I'm just thinking about doing well."
The first of those opportunities will come at the final summit finish of the Vuelta a Burgos, where Aru says he'll be testing his form again. "What I was lacking on Thursday was the pace of the very best riders. It was the best I could do, and my condition was reflected by that eighth place."
"We'll see what happens tomorrow. I'm curious myself but in any case, it will have been a productive week in terms of building my form and condition."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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