Aru to lead Astana at Giro, will help Nibali in France

The Sardinian is poised to make a run at winning his first grand tour next May

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MILAN (VN) — Sardinian Fabio Aru’s ranking within team Astana could significantly change for 2015, as he appears slated to race both the Giro d’Italia and, in support of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, the Tour de France.

“Aru is maturing. It’s only right that we give a young rider his chance to lead his own race,” Astana trainer Paolo Slongo told VeloNews. “The idea would be to let him race the Giro as captain and to send him to the Tour to help Vincenzo and to gain experience.”

At the start of 2014, many followers were asking “Who’s Aru?” In 2013, he helped Nibali win the Giro but failed to make headlines outside his home country.

Of course, Americans following Joe Dombrowski’s Baby Giro winning ride in 2012 might remember the three-letter name, A-R-U. To clinch the overall win on the Gavia Pass, Dombrowski put nearly three minutes into all of his rivals except for Aru, who finished at 43 seconds and placed second overall to Dombrowski at 25 seconds the next day.

In another important amateur stage race, the Giro della Val d’Aosta, Aru rode away with the overall title in 2011 and 2012. At the 2012 USA Pro Challenge, he placed second behind Rory Sutherland on the Flagstaff Mountain summit finish.

He completed his transition into the professional ranks last year when he won the Montecampione stage and placed third overall behind winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in the Giro d’Italia. Astana then took him to the Vuelta a Espana, where he won two mountain stages, one ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and one over Chris Froome (Sky).

By the end of 2014, the answer to the Aru question became clear: The 5-foot-11 Sardinian is a climber and a grand tour contender.

“After my second win [in the Vuelta], Alberto Contador rode to my side and said, ‘Hola, champion.’ I could hardly believe it,” Aru told Italy’s Tutto Bici website.

“Look, I know that I did something important [in 2014], but I still have to improve a lot.”

Aru could improve his time trialling. He lost almost a minute and a half to Contador in the Vuelta’s long time trial. At the Giro next year, the organizer planned a 59.2km time trial where Aru could lose even more time.

Astana’s desire to save Nibali for the Tour, though, might allow Aru the chance to lead the turquoise team in the Giro against Alberto Tinkoff-Saxo’s Contador and Froome. Nibali, if he did race in May, would guide Aru and then rely on him for help in the Tour later in July.

“Vincenzo would be sorry not to race the Giro d’Italia, but at the same time, he’s the Tour defending champion,” Slongo said. “He could have Aru race along at his side at the Tour, a little to help in the overall battle and a little to gain experience, since he’s never raced the Tour de France before.”

Nibali will meet with the team in Tuscany at the end of November to decide his schedule, but he is also going to consider his emerging team-mate.

“Fabio’s a talent,” Nibali told the Italian press at a gala two weeks ago. “He deserves his space and my schedule will be thought out according to this.”

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