Fabio Aru and Vincenzo Nibali sat shoulder-to-shoulder at the Astana pre-Tour de France press conference on Friday afternoon with no apparent sign that their rivalry could explode over the next three weeks. It seems that the circumstances and events of recent weeks and months have eased the tension between the two Italians.
During the winter both were keen to establish themselves as Astana team leader and Nibali openly criticised his younger teammate in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. They have not raced together since then but now line up together for the Tour de France and then again in August in the Italian team for the hilly road race at the Rio Olympics. Races and results seem to have been placed before personal opinions and differences in character.
Aru is in another dimension with far heavier expectations on his shoulders. He wears race number 21 and is the designated team leader at Astana for the Tour de France. It is his big goal of the season but also his debut in the sport’s biggest race and represents a whole new world compared to winning the Vuelta a España or fighting for victory at the Giro d’Italia.
"My goal is to try to do as well as possible. I don’t know my limits or my level at the moment but we're tranquillo because I’ve worked hard. We're also not under pressure as a team because Vincenzo won the Giro. That takes the pressure off me. I’m pretty sure that we can do well together even if it’s difficult to be specific before the start.”
Nibali stays relaxed
Nibali sat quietly as Aru answered questions, hiding his own emotions and opinions like a sphinx.