Fabio Aru’s absence from the forthcoming Giro d’Italia due to injury was confirmed on Monday evening, with his Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli admitting that "the world has fallen apart on us.”
Aru suffered an injury to his left knee when he crashed in training at Sierra Nevada on April 2 after a tyre exploded on the descent of the Alto de Monachil. He travelled to Milan on Monday to be examined by Professor Franco Combi at the Columbus Clinic, but he already seemed resigned to his fate before the consultation.
“I can’t bend the left leg, I can only keep it extended. I’m not able to pedal and I haven’t trained in nine days,” Aru told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I need a miracle. At the moment, it hurts even to climb steps, to walk. I can’t bend my knee.”
On Monday evening, Astana confirmed the inevitable in a short press release: Aru has withdrawn from the Giro following a diagnosis of pre-patellar bursitis. The corsa rosa gets underway in Aru’s native Sardinia on May 6, and missing the chance to race on home roads was a particular disappointment for the 26-year-old.
“It hurts not to be there, but my first priority isn’t to race, it’s to heal,” said Aru, who recounted the crash that forced him out of the Giro.
“I fell at 45kph on the descent of the Alto de Monachil. If it happened a few seconds earlier, when we were going at 70kph, who knows if I’d be here to talk about it? From the car behind, they heard the pop of the tube that exploded. When Maurizio [Mazzoleni, Aru’s trainer – ed.] got out to come to my aid, he thought I’d fractured my pelvis. I only have some scratches, and nothing on the hands.
“It could have gone worse, sure, but it could also not have happened. Think, Sardinia, my home… It’s bad luck, I can’t do anything about it. I thought of a thousand things in these weeks, but when something like this happens… If your tyre explodes, what can you say?”
In the days immediately following the crash, Aru attempted to ride on the rollers, but found the pain unbearable. He posted an image of his swollen knee on social media on Friday, but although he stated his intention to ride the Tour of the Alps as planned, it was clear that his Giro preparations were compromised.
“The cartilage of the knee is inflamed and compressed, as if it was bent backwards. I fell heavily on that knee and the cartilage absorbed the impact,” Aru said. “This impedes the movement. When I’m still, the pain is normal, but just bending the knee is like having a screwdriver twist into your flesh.”
It is as yet unclear when Aru will be fit to return to competitive action, but his mentor Giuseppe Martinelli suggested to Gazzetta that he will now be sent to the Tour de France, where Jakob Fuglsang has been slated to lead Astana. Martinelli looked to draw solace from his experiences as directeur sportif to the late Marco Pantani. In 1995, Pantani was forced to skip the Giro after crashing in training beforehand, but returned in time to win two stages at the Tour de France, at l’Alpe d’Huez and Guzet Neige.
“The world has fallen apart on us. Professor Combi was very direct. He told us that it would be impossible to get back on the bike within ten days,” Martinelli told Gazzetta. “I preferred not to say anything in particular to Fabio in this moment. I’m made that way, and there isn’t much to say. I’m very sorry about it. It’s a bigger blow than the others because we know how special this Giro was to Fabio and how much he wanted to be there. It’s a situation that reminds me of Pantani before the 1995 Giro, when he crashed on May 1 and couldn’t start.”