Fabio Aru will target the Vuelta a España after enjoying a solid return to Grand Tour racing at the Tour de France. The UAE Team Emirates rider missed the Giro d'Italia after undergoing surgery in April to repair a constriction of the iliac artery in his left leg, but he returned to action ahead of schedule in June and then placed 14th overall at the Tour.
"I can be great again," Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I know this, I realised it at the Tour. Am I wrong? I'm aware that I need time. I don't know when, but I'll get back to the top. I'm betting on it."
Aru won the Vuelta in 2015 after placing on the podium of the two previous editions of the Giro, but his Grand Tour record has been more mixed in the intervening period, with 5th place overall on the 2017 Tour the highpoint. His debut season at UAE Team Emirates in 2018 was a trying one, as he abandoned the Giro and could only manage 23rd overall at the Vuelta.
After struggling in the early weeks of this season, Aru expressed relief on discovering the root cause of his travails, even if the iliac artery surgery forced him out of the Giro. He returned to action at the GP Lugano and his performance at the Tour de Suisse sufficed to earn him selection for the Tour de France, which went, per Aru's telling, "better than expected."
"It was a good Tour against great rivals, which was unthinkable up to just a few weeks beforehand," Aru said. "Obviously, I'm not yet at 'my' level, but the responses – from the sensations and the numbers – were good. And I'm happy because I took on this challenge without having the early-season races in my legs.
"You don't finish 14th by chance. The engine and head are there, I just have to find the right condition. But I want to live day by day, without rushing things. In my career, even though I'm not looking backwards, I know that I've put together some nice things. And I know what step [of the podium] I want to get back to."
Aru has not raced since reaching Paris and won't pin on a number again until the opening stage of the Vuelta, an 18km team time trial in Torrevieja. He is preparing for the race from his familiar training base of Sestriere.
"I've been on Sestriere since a few days ago. Here, I'm preparing the Vuelta in the best way, like I'm used to doing," Aru said. "And if I'm here, it's because my motivation it at its maximum. Like I said, it's only a question of time."