Aru warns against underestimating 2019 Giro d'Italia's opening-day time trial

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) has warned that the overall contenders at the 2019 Giro d’Italia could pay a heavy price if they underestimate the opening day time trial in Bologna. The 2019 Giro gets underway on May 11 with an 8.2km time trial that starts from Piazza Maggiore and finishes overlooking the city at the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca.

The final two kilometres of the course bring riders up the 2km of the Colle della Guardia, famed as the finishing climb at the Giro dell’Emilia. The climb has an average gradient of 9.7 per cent, with pitches of 16 per cent in the final kilometre.

"From the first stage, it will be a Giro that is not to be taken lightly, because in Bologna you could lose a minute just like that. And that certainly wouldn’t be the right way to start out," Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But I like that it’s going to be a demanding start and I like the fact that you have to be ready straightaway. Trying to build condition along the way is a double-edged sword, because you risk accumulating a lot of fatigue in the opening days."

Aru was not among the riders present at Wednesday’s route presentation in Milan. Although he stressed that he had not assessed the route in detail, he acknowledged that the mammoth stage 16 from Lovere to Ponte di Legno had caught his eye. The tappone features the Passo della Presolana, Croce di Salven, Passo Gavia and Passo del Mortriolo, as well as a climb to the finish.

"One day like that is enough to make the Giro difficult. And then, to make things even more delicate, it comes the day after the rest day," said Aru, who was struck by the 5,700 metres of total altitude gain on the stage. The most he had ever tackled in one day of racing, he said, was 5,200 metres.

"If someone thinks that an extra 500 metres isn’t much, they don’t know cycling. Those 500 metres are hell. It’s a difference as wide as an ocean."

Twice a podium finisher at the corsa rosa, Aru struggled to find his form in the opening phase of the 2018 edition - his first in the colours of UAE Team Emirates - and he would later abandon the race on stage 19. Aru was also shy of his best at the Vuelta a España, where he placed 23rd overall. He completed his 2018 season in China last month, finishing 15th at the Tour of Guangxi.

Aru travelled from China to Abu Dhabi for UAE Team Emirates’ end of season meeting, though he has yet to confirm his racing programme for 2019. At Wednesday’s Giro route presentation, race director Mauro Vegni hinted that Aru would return to the event in 2019. For his part, the Sardinian would only intimate that his season is likely to begin at the Vuelta a San Juan in January. "I could start in Argentina. I wouldn’t exclude it and I wouldn’t mind it," he said.

Aru also welcomed the arrival of Fernando Gaviria from Quick-Step Floors, reckoning that the Colombian sprinter will ease the burden of chasing WorldTour points throughout the season. "The points for the teams are important and he will guarantee a good haul," Aru said. "And that will take a lot of pressure away from us."

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