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Fabio Aru returns to his roots in cyclo-cross races

GRAND COLOMBIER FRANCE AUGUST 09 Arrival Fabio Aru of Italy and UAE Team Emirates during the 32nd Tour de LAin 2020 Stage 3 a 145km stage from Saint Vulbas to Grand Colombier 1501m tourdelain TOURDELAIN TDA on August 09 2020 in Grand Colombier France Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images
(Image credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Fabio Aru has returned to his roots to complete his final races in the colours of UAE Team Emirates, racing cyclo-cross for the first time since his U23 days.

The Italian just missed the podium in the fourth race in the Trofeo Le Velò series in Ancona on Sunday, taking fourth place behind Gioele Bertolini, Luca Pescarmona (both Team Bramati) and Stefano Capponi.

Aru told Tuttobiciweb, "I enjoyed it, but what a struggle!"

He will compete on Tuesday in San Fior in his final race of the season before moving across to the Qhubeka Assos team.

The 30-year-old raced cyclo-cross throughout his junior and U23 years before devoting himself fully to the road when he signed his first pro contract with the Astana team in 2012.

The winner of the Vuelta a España and runner-up in the Giro d'Italia in 2015 has struggled in recent years, first with a constriction in his iliac artery that required a surgical procedure to correct, then with a cytomegalovirus infection that forced him out of the Vuelta in 2019.

He started 2020 with hopes of finally racing a season at full strength only to have the coronavirus pandemic bring the calendar to a halt. When he returned in August at the Vuelta a Burgos, Aru was full of hope but was shot out the back early on stage 9 of the Tour de France and then dropped out of the race.

"Yesterday, talking to the team doctor, I told him that I was feeling better, and that I was confident for the rest of the race. Now I am here, stuck in a hole, without really understanding why," Aru said.

The lack of results led to his departure from UAE Team Emirates and without a contract until Qhubeka Assos finally stepping in with a contract after the Swiss clothing company rescued the team in late November.