Asked at one point in his Vuelta a España press conference what he thought of Italian stage winner Fabio Aru (Astana), Alberto Contador (TInkoff-Saxo) said with a grin, “well, to be honest, I was watching the Giro d’Italia this May” - in which Aru took third - “and I said to [Tinkoff-Saxo teammate and friend] Jesus [Hernandez], he reminds me of myself when I was a young rider.”
Contador went on to say that Aru’s attacking style, particularly the way he changed pace on the climbs, was similar to his own. That may be so, but the young Italian was capable on Wednesday of shedding all the other overall contenders, including Contador, and gaining a six second advantage on them by the summit of San Miguel de Aralar. A result which simultaneously moves the Giro podium finisher up from seventh to sixth on the overall classification.
“For me it’s incredible, I never thought I would win here, I’m surprised I could do so well,” Aru said afterwards. “I prepared as best I could and I want to dedicate this win to my family and my team.”
“I tried to take it as steadily as I could, then launched one attack 1.5 kilometres from the line” - which was matched by Contador - “and then again” - which saw him go clear in a perfectly timed move.
Aru paid tribute to Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) as one veteran teammate who is helping to show him the ropes at the Vuelta. “He’s a big help.” he said. Tiralongo was, of course, the rider who trained with at altitude in Sestriere ski station for a month after the Giro, before heading to the Tour of Poland, his only race immediately prior to the Vuelta.
Aru remained as guarded as ever about his overall aspirations - although it has not been forgotten that a certain Vincenzo NIbali, Aru’s teammate, took his first Grand Tour victory in the Vuelta back in 2010.
“I’m taking this on the day by day,” the third-year-pro said, “that’s my best approach. It’s my first Vuelta” - and the first time he has done two Grand Tours in the same year - “so my only aim is to do as well as possible.”