Category: Fabio Aru

UAE banking on Aru rebound

UAE Team Emirates opened its checkbook in 2019 to sign emerging sprint star Fernando Gaviria, yet the team is still banking on Fabio Aru to deliver.

Aru was UAE’s biggest signing for this season in what was one of the blockbuster transfers of 2018. Things didn’t pan out as hoped for when Aru was winless in his first season of a three-year deal with the team.

Even with the arrival of Gaviria and the expectations of building a full lead-out train around the fast Colombian, team brass is still hoping Aru will pay dividends in 2019 with a return to form.

“We have full confidence in Fabio,” said UAE Team Emirates sport director Joxean Fernández. “We are supporting him and we believe in him as a person and as a cyclist.”

The 28-year-old Aru left Astana after six seasons with the Kazakh-backed outfit in a high-profile three-year deal to lead UAE in the grand tours.

To say things didn’t go as planned is an understatement. Aru was a shadow of his former self during the Giro d’Italia when he struggled to stay with the fastest attacks in the mountains. Aru eventually abandoned. Things didn’t go much better at the Vuelta, which he won in dramatic fashion in 2015, but at least he managed to reach Madrid and put a full grand tour in his legs.

Fabio Aru
Aru abandoned the 2018 Giro on stage 19. Photo: Dan Cavallari |

The team is optimistic Aru will be back to his level as a consistent grand tour podium contender in 2019.

“Fabio didn’t have a great year,” Fernández admitted during a phone interview. “He didn’t have one major problem, but it was an accumulation of small things. A crash here, a muscular problem there. There were a lot of small things that prevented him from having a great year.”

One middle-of-the-road season isn’t going to derail Aru’s career. A knee injury kept him out of the 2017 Giro, but that doesn’t appear to be what caused his difficulties this season.

Aru, after all, won the 2015 Vuelta and wore the yellow jersey in the 2017 Tour de France. He’s won stages in all three grand tours, finished on the Giro podium twice and rode to fifth in the 2017 Tour. Aru wants to put things back on track for next year.

“Something was missing all year. I was always a step behind the strongest riders,” Aru told VeloNews’s Gregor Brown last month. “All year long, I never managed to get into my very top condition. Unfortunately, that’s sport these days, it doesn’t allow you to be at 95 percent.

“When you’re missing even a little bit, you’ll struggle to get results, especially a stage race rider of my characteristics,” Aru continued. “Certainly some errors were committed, and sometimes I probably tried to do much, to do things at all costs, and that causes you to make errors.”

Fabio Aru
In only his second attempt at the Tour de France, Aru took over the yellow jersey at the ski resort finish of Peyragudes in 2017. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media |

There’s no question the coming season will be decisive for Aru. He’ll be 29 this summer, the age when most riders are reaching their full maturity. Aru is in a similar situation to other riders who hit top results very early, such as Nairo Quintana or Tejay Van Garderen. It can be challenging to sustain upward momentum. All three are hoping for resets in 2019.

With other riders such as Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) emerging as grand tour winners, coupled with Sky’s continued stranglehold on the Tour de France, it’s not going to be getting any easier to elbow onto grand tour podiums.

Without revealing details, Fernández suggested there will be changes coming for 2019, including some tweaks to his calendar and preparation. On paper, the 2019 Tour looks to favor Aru more than the Giro, but Fernández said racing schedules are yet to be defined.

In addition to Gaviria, UAE Team Emirates also brings on Sergio Henao, but Fernández said Aru and Dan Martin will remain the gravitational center of the team’s GC ambitions.

“Henao is a great one-week racer and we think he can bring a lot to the team in those kinds of races,” Fernández said. “And Dan Martin is a top professional and he’s very smart. He knows what he can do, and cycling isn’t just mathematics. Dan knows how to move in the races and he showed that this year. And along with [Alejandro] Valverde, he is always one of the top candidates in the Ardennes. We will keep giving him our support.”

It will be an important season for UAE Team Emirates on several fronts. It needs to establish top support for Gaviria, who is emerging as one of the sport’s best sprinters, and then find a way to nudge Aru back to his previous level in the grand tours.

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Aru looking to reset after difficult 2018 season

BEIHAI, China (VN) — Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) is hitting the reset button after a “difficult 2018 season” due to poor health and crashes.

The Sardinian closes out his season in the Tour of Guangxi this week. It is his first visit to China, perfect for restarting 2019 on the right foot.

“It’s important. I’ll tell you the truth and it might seem mad, but even though it’s been a difficult season, the desire to race is still there, so I’m happy to be here,” Aru said.

He arrived in Beihai in China’s south just hours beforehand, departing after racing Italy’s Il Lombardia on Saturday.

“I haven’t come here without the desire to ride. Of course my condition isn’t the best, and it hasn’t been the best in recent weeks, not even at Lombardia,” Aru added. “But from a physical point of view it was important for me to finish with another race, to have this new experience, which could be useful for the future.”

Aru will not just cruise through the six stages from Beihai north to Guilin, but keep his body in good shape with eyes toward the horizon.

“I don’t have a lot of personal objectives here because physically I haven’t been very good all season, or in the last few weeks,” Aru explained.

“I had to pull out of the worlds, and if I was going well, I certainly would never have done that. The important thing is to continue to try to understand how I am, to see if I’m a bit better.

“I’ll also be thinking of next season, so it’s important to finish this year well here. We’ll see what happens.”

The Italian began the Giro d’Italia in May as a favorite but never found the form that saw him place second in 2015 Giro or win the 2015 Vuelta a España. He abandoned in the third week and skipped the Tour de France.

He said after the Giro that he struggles to absorb pasta and carbohydrates well. Medical tests helped him understand that he should limit their intake and avoid dairy products.

“Something was missing all year. I was always a step behind the strongest riders. All year long, I never managed to get into my very top condition. Unfortunately, that’s sport these days, it doesn’t allow you to be at 95 percent. When you’re missing even a little bit, you’ll struggle to get results, especially a stage race rider of my characteristics,” Aru said.

“Certainly some errors were committed, and sometimes I probably tried to do much, to do things at all costs, and that causes you to make errors.

“The results I had this year were not up to my level, given what I’ve always shown and what I want out of a season. So for sure, I’m not content and for that reason.”

Aru returned to the Vuelta in August hoping for results and to build form for the world championship road race. He never found it. He crashed twice and sparked a media storm when he cursed his bike and team sponsor Colnago.

The race did not help his condition so much, and he pulled his name out of the running for a spot on Team Italy in the worlds. Instead, he asked to race the series of one-day races over the last week in Italy. Now, he is in China to end 2018.

A reset is needed. Afterward, Aru wants consistency and a chance at victory in 2019 for himself and UAE Team Emirates.

“I can’t wait to make a reset, but it’s a reset that is made with the desire to restart strongly not because you are completely dead, also in the head. Physically, I wasn’t bad, but my mind wasn’t gone,” he continued.

“I’ll rest, but the first training camp will be soon with the team, we are going to plan out the year so that I don’t make any errors like maybe that were made. It’s bad, but you have to learn from your mistakes to not repeat them and go well.”

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Aru pulls out of world championships due to poor form

MILAN, Italy (AFP) — Italian rider Fabio Aru announced Sunday he will not compete in the road race world championships in Austria next week.

“Reluctantly, after consulting with coach Davide Cassani, I’ve decided to waive the call-up to the Italian national team for the world championships in Innsbruck,” the 28-year-old said on his Facebook page.

“Unfortunately, my condition is not where I’d like it to be and, in all likelihood, would not allow me to honor my call-up,” added the former Vuelta a España winner, who crashed on the stage race earlier this month.

“It’s a difficult choice but I think it is right to leave room for those who can count on a better condition right now,” he said.

Aru had been selected on a provisional 12-man Italy team for the world championships from September 23 to 30.

Veteran Vincenzo Nibali — who has won all the Grand Tours including the Tour de France in 2014 — has been called up for the Italian team but has also been struggling for form.

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Aru apologizes to Ernesto Colnago for stage 17 meltdown

LLEIDA, Spain (VN) — Ernesto Colnago wants Italy’s star rider Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) to show some respect for the bicycles he races on.

Overnight, Aru had to call the famous frame maker and ask for forgiveness after cursing at his bike several times on live television during the Vuelta a España‘s stage 17. Colnago sponsors Aru’s UAE team.

On Wednesday, late in the stage, the 2015 Vuelta winner crashed and stood up, repeatedly shouting “Cazzo di bici!” — translated as: “shit bike!” That phrase zipped through the airwaves and rang through the internet, soon reaching Colnago’s Cambiago headquarters near Milan.

“You know how many riders in these 60 years who’ve raced on my bikes,” Colnago told Tutto Bici. “You know our story.

“I understand everything and everyone, but this is a very bad episode, which hurt me. I accept the apologies, but I ask everyone for respect. Fabio understood.”

Aru also yelled that his derailleur was blocked. The team said that before the crash, he was trying to get the chain from the 11- to 12-tooth rear cog using his hand.

The episode punctuates Aru’s terrible season. Team UAE signed him and took the Sardinian to the Giro d’Italia to win. Aru never showed the form that he had when he finished second and third in past editions. He abandoned on stage 19.

He explained tests showed he has some dietary problems. He changed his diet and returned to racing. He hoped the Vuelta would be an opportunity to build toward the world championships — perhaps he could even earn a stage win or place in the overall. Instead, he crashed in stage 2 and again in stage 17.

“I understand he’s having a bad season and it’s all going wrong for him,” Colnago said. “I told him that he has to be professional and that things will go his way sooner or later.

“If his gears were blocked, then he wouldn’t have crashed, but locked up. The bike’s not at fault.”

Aru climbed back on his bike and raced to the Balcón de Bizkaia finish, where Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) won from an escape. Aru finished 14:14 behind. His ripped shorts revealed blood running down his backside.

Fabio Aru
Fabio Aru struggled home on stage 17 after crashing before the final climb. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media |

The team manager Joxean Fernández Matxin spoke with Aru after the stage. He said this morning ahead of stage 18 that he understands Aru was upset. “Anyone would be crashing at 70km an hour,” Matxin said. “He didn’t need to apologize.”

Last night, though, Aru called Colnago to ease the tensions. Earlier this year, the team reportedly was ready to make a deal with Bianchi bicycles for 2019. However, over the last month, it agreed to stay with Colnago.

“I took an impact to my lower back, which worries me, as well as the pain,” Aru said. “We were descending at 70km and it could have been a lot worse.

“I apologize for how I reacted after the crash but my adrenaline was running. I was aching and you lose the control sometimes. I hope to recover quickly. We’ll see tomorrow morning, it depends on how I get through the night.”

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Aru bullish at Vuelta after poor season start

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — It was a spring to forget for Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), but he is finding some satisfaction in his Vuelta a España return.

The Sardinian with the big smile returned to the Spanish grand tour, which he won in 2015, to find redemption after a horrible start to the 2018 season.

Three days in and ahead of the biggest Vuelta test yet, he said, “I’m quite satisfied with how my legs responded in the final, it was not easy to be brilliant, especially for the heat.”

Tuesday’s stage 4 sees the Vuelta a España field, including red jersey leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), climb into the Alfaguara Mountain Range north of Granada. The final climb travels 12.4 kilometers to Alfacar, a village that takes its name from the Arabic term al-Fajjar that means clay.

Aru will have a chance to reshape his season on the climb to Alfacar and in the weeks to come.

He was forced to skip the Tour de France after abandoning the Giro d’Italia “completely empty” in stage 19. The Italian champion began the Giro in May as a favorite but never could find the shape that took him to his 2010 Vuelta victory or allowed him to win a stage and wear the yellow jersey in the 2017 Tour.

Aru, who is paid around 2.5 million euros a year, has not won since the 2017 Tour de France. Alarm bells rang in May when he quit the Giro.

When the dust settled on the Giro, the 28-year-old underwent several exams.It turned out he was not quite gluten intolerant, but his body struggles to absorb pasta and carbohydrates well. He now limits their intake and avoids dairy products.

So far, the plan is going well. Aru returned to racing with a 10th overall in the Tour de Wallonie and a 10th in the Tour of Poland earlier in August.

In the Vuelta, Kwiatkowski leads the race by 14 seconds over stage 2 winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). On that first test to Caminito del Rey, Aru was just eight seconds behind Valverde.

“Some of the classification guys were just ahead of me,” Aru said that day. “Others were right beside me, and others were further back.”

Aru made early gains on Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data), Miguel Angel López (Astana), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), and Richie Porte (BMC Racing).

The Emirates team has faith in its skinny climber with the big smile. General manager Giuseppe Saronni, a former Giro d’Italia winner and world champion, said the climb to Alfacar suits Aru’s characteristics well, with its tough middle section of 11 percent leading up to 1,440 meters above sea level. The team doctors explained that a person needs five to six days to adjust to the hot southern Spain weather. Saronni believes Aru is now ready.

“I do not know anything about [Tuesday’s] climb,” said race leader Kwiatkowski, “but it’s the heat that is now in this area of Spain you have to know how to manage your strength.”

“This is going to be the first test to check each other’s strength,” said 2016 Vuelta winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar). “It will be a good test for the general classification hopefuls.”

“I’m just going to evaluate the situation on the road,” Aru said of the day ahead, “and not do anything too aggressive.”

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Martin, Aru set to make Vuelta start for UAE

UAE Team Emirates will bring plenty of climbing firepower to the start of the Vuelta a España start this weekend in Málaga, with both Dan Martin and Fabio Aru set to attend the three-week race.

After winning a stage and delivering an eighth-place overall performance at the Tour de France, Martin will hope to carry his form to the Vuelta. The Spanish grand tour was the scene of his first career grand tour stage victory back in 2011.

Aru, on the other hand, did not deliver the performance he was hoping for in his first grand tour appearance this season at the Giro d’Italia. The 28-year-old Italian will hope to bounce back in Spain.

“I arrive from a first part of the season in which I did not get the results I was looking for, but from the defeats you can learn important lessons and all this gives me great motivation,” Aru said. “It will be a tactically open Vuelta, the nine summit finishes will lend themselves to attacks. And I must beware of short stages, they will have a big impact on the general classification.”

If both Aru and Martin can manage to ride at their best in Spain, UAE could be a formidable team in the mountains.

“Aru will be our man for the general classification, in addition we will be able to count on Daniel Martin, back from an excellent Tour de France and looking for more good results in some stage finishes particularly suited to him,” said team manager Joxean Matxin.

Completing the roster for UAE Team Emirates are Norwegians Vegard Stake Laengen and Sven Erik Bystrøm and the Italian quartet of Valerio Conti, Simone Consonni, Simone Petilli, and Edward Ravasi.

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Aru among six riders penalized in Giro TT

Fabio Aru was among six riders penalized for slipstreaming in Tuesday’s stage 16 time trial at the Giro d’Italia.

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Aru continues to struggle at Giro

Fabio Aru still got big cheers outside the UAE-Emirates team bus Sunday morning, but he’s done little to excite the tifosi so far during

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Aru returns to Tour of the Alps with eye on Giro pink

Fabio Aru returns to the Giro d’Italia this May a changed man. Now, he has experience, which he wants to use to win.

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Aru’s Italian national jersey sparks debate

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Controversy reigned when Italian Fabio Aru revealed his new 2018 team kit and subdued national champion’s jersey with the tricolor looking more like the United Arab Emirates flag.

Aru switched from team Astana to team UAE Emirates for this season. The new jersey design, morphed to resemble his teammates’s normal trade jerseys, look nothing similar to the bold red, white, and green top that he wore with team Astana.

“Aru’s jersey is a joke,” someone commented on Twitter.

“This is the jersey of the Italian champion?” another fan said.

“It’s a great pity to see the tricolor ruined again like that,” another wrote. “It was nice and exciting to see Aru in the group at the Tour de France wearing the traditional colors.”

Teams began revealing their kits in December and most finished doing so this week as the calendar turned to 2018.

Aru won the famous tricolor top after winning the Italian national road race last summer. Larry Warbasse won the U.S. road title and his Aqua Blue Sport team created a visible stars and stripes top for him. He continues to wear it into the new season, at least until the 2018 event.

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The years have raced by since Italian Fausto Coppi wore the red, white, and green top to victory in Paris-Roubaix. Or when Frenchman Bernhard Hinault crushed his rivals as national champion, with blue over his shoulders, white on his chest, and red covering the lower third of his jersey.

Teams’s budgets have soared since 2000. Team Sky runs on nearly $42 million annually. U.S.-registered EF Education First has about a $16 million budget. In return, teams want to showcase their sponsors, the star riders, and the bicycles they ride.

For some teams like Quick-Step Floors, which has a strong influence in Belgium, having the national champion’s jersey well-represented brings a sense of pride. Who can forget Belgian Philippe Gilbert crossing the line in the Tour of Flanders in his black, yellow, and red top?

For other more international teams such as Trek-Segafredo, so many different national champions and jerseys disrupted the team harmony and spirit that the sponsor is paying into.

“If Ferrari goes and leads on Formula One, they will never paint their car yellow or something,” one team manager wishing to withhold his name told VeloNews.

“If Munich Bayern becomes the Bundesliga champion, they will not give up their jersey for one with the German flag. They just will not do it.”

In the trend of subdued national jerseys, team FDJ let Ramon Sinkeldam show his Dutchness in full. He posted a photograph on Twitter this week with a simple top — one-third red, one-third white, and one-third blue — with simple logos from the French lottery company FDJ. French teammate and national champion Arnaud Démare posted a photograph of a similar design, but with the French ordering of colors: blue, white, red.

Fans loved it. One wrote, “Perfect Jersey! And this is what we expect for all nationals champions kit!”

It contrasted sharply with Sinkeldam’s look at Sunweb in 2017. The team, as with UAE and Fabio Aru’s design, printed only minimal national jersey designs.

“This is only a provisional version,” Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport when he revealed the jersey. “The fans can relax, the colors of the Italian flag will be clear. The ‘true’ jersey will be presented later, it’s elegant and beautiful, I guarantee it.”

Aru responded by posting a photograph on Instagram a slightly modified design. Fans still remained disappointed. One wrote, “Fabio, the tricolor should be honored. I hope that this one is not the one for races.”

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It is not the first time in Italy such controversy brewed. Filippo Pozzato’s national champion’s jersey when he raced for Katusha in 2009 caused a storm. Also, team Movistar’s design for Giovanni Visconti hardly stood out among the normal issue jerseys.

Spanish champion Jesus Herrada had the same problem at his home team Movistar. Not until this year, when he switched to Cofidis, could he don a true red and yellow top.

Team managers must delicately balance the national demands with those of big budget sponsors like the Arab state UAE and $23 billion airline company Emirates.

“This is the world of cycling now,” team UAE Emirates manager Giuseppe Saronni said. “I understand the fans, but there are many demands to be satisfied.”

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