Aru leaves France with yellow fever, takes aim at Vuelta’s red jersey

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Sardinian Fabio Aru (Astana) will turn his attention to the Vuelta a España next, but he has a new love for the Tour de France after placing fifth overall, wearing the yellow jersey for two days, and winning a stage.

Aru, the 2015 Vuelta a España winner, expects to be one of several stars lining up for the Spanish grand tour on August 19. Tour winner Chris Froome (Sky) and best young rider Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) will challenge for the title as well.

Aru overhauled Tom Dumoulin on the final mountain day to win the Vuelta two years ago. That year, he also placed second overall in the Giro d’Italia. He aimed to win the Giro this season, but a crash and a knee injury forced him to re-schedule. It may have been for the best.

“When you are at the top [with the yellow jersey], you begin to think of all the possibilities, it’s normal that it’s that way,” Aru said after the Tour’s stage 20 time trial in Marseille.

“You’ve got to widen your view. Looking back, I always battled with the best and I improved much compared to last year. And when I had a bad day, at most, I lost one minute.”

Team Astana took Aru to the Tour in 2016, but he suffered in his debut and finished 13th. This year, he appeared more robust. He won stage 5 when he shot clear to win on the Planche des Belles Filles.

Froome, racing for his fourth title, said he would not let Aru out of his sights again. Followers began talking about Aru winning the Tour when he took over the race lead from Froome by 22 seconds at the Peyragudes airstrip high in the Pyrenean Mountains.

Sky maintains that Froome had not eaten enough on that stage. He took revenge two days later and left Aru behind on Rodez’s small uphill finish.

Aru says the two days he spent at the top of the GC pushed his tall, skinny body beyond what it could handle. He lacked that 0.1 percent needed to defend himself.

“Unfortunately, we are so strung out, so skinny that just the slightest thing will do it,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport this week. “Maybe it was the blast of air conditioning after a stage. Unfortunately, we have to attend press conferences, interviews, all these things. I do it with pleasure, but maybe you catch a bit more of a chill than if you go to the bus for a shower afterwards.”

Aru suffered from bronchitis and lost more time in the two Alpine stages over Galibier to Serre-Chevalier and to the Col d’Izoard. He held fifth place, which he defended with his time trial in Marseille.

His thoughts are now on Spain’s Vuelta a España and the red jersey, but he left Paris with a form of yellow fever.

“I just missed the podium by 45 seconds,” he said. “I leave the Tour with the knowledge that I can return and do well. That was what I needed more than anything else. That’s the biggest confirmation.”

One asterisk on Aru’s Vuelta participation is his impending transfer to team UAE-Emirates this winter. The deal is signed, according to sources, and Astana, as a revenge for its star jumping ship after six years, could still opt not to include Aru on its Vuelta roster.

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