Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 13 July 2020

Fabio Aru: After injuries and bad luck, the Tour de France has proved a turning point in my season

Every week a cyclist from UAE Team Emirates will pen a column on how their season is progressing

It’s no secret that my form hasn’t been where I’ve needed it to be over the past year. Bad luck, injury and surgery for the iliac artery in my leg have all played their part in this.

However, the Tour de France has proved to be a significant turning point in my season. It’s been argued that the 2019 edition of Le Grand Boucle was the toughest we’ve had in recent history. More riders than usual retired early and so many of the main contenders didn’t live up to their pre-race hype. But for me, it was exactly what I needed. It gave me a massive boost of confidence and I ended feeling far stronger than when I started.

Finishing 14th overall in a Grand Tour is nothing to be ashamed of, especially as this was only my fourth race, and second stage race, since the operation. During my career I have won the 2015 Vuelta a Espana and picked up a second place in the Giro the same year, I was fifth in the Tour in 2017 too. That is the level I know I can perform at and it’s the level I am now targeting.

Whilst I went into the Tour with no expectations or pressure on my shoulders, the rest of the team were focused on their own individual objectives. Both [Dan] Martin and [Alexander] Kristoff wanted to build on last year’s successes by taking stages – Martin also wanted to perform in the GC [General Classification]. But it wasn’t to be for either of them. Kristoff came close on Stage 4, but [Elia] Viviani pipped him to the line. After that he was always in the mix, getting four top-10 places in the sprints, but the win was elusive. He was up against some extremely fast finishers - Caleb Ewan, Dylan Groenewegen, Peter Sagan - and you have to be perfect to beat those guys!

I spoke to Martin every day and we rode together often. He told me it was the most open and most challenging Tour that he’s ever done - and this is a rider that loves a tough parcours. He finished in the top 20 too, but he’s a fighter and he’ll be back stronger for sure.

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Tour de France from start to finish

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One rider that really caught my eye was [Jasper] Philipsen. The young Belgian talent is only 21 years old. This was his first ever Grand Tour, during his debut season on the World Tour, and he was up there with the best of them. We’d given him the role of being Kristoff’s lead out man and he was able to show his strength at the end of every stage he raced. The fact that he got three top-10 finishes himself tells me that we’ve found a future superstar.

As most of the world now knows, the Tour was won by another young superstar - the Colombian rider Egan Bernal (Team Ineos). He deserves a huge amount of respect for taking the Yellow Jersey across the line in Paris, in only his second ever Grand Tour. Chapeaux Egan!

Speaking for UAE Team Emirates, we now need to look at what worked and what didn’t and start planning for our next block of racing, because our season is far from over. As for me personally, I am looking forward to a few days off the bike to rest and also reflect on one of the most exciting races I’ve been a part of since joining the team.

Updated: July 30, 2019 03:19 PM

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