Hands up if you’re going to be the next star of Italian cycling.
“Aru!” The onomatopoeic noise Scooby Doo makes to register disbelief and confusion is now spreading to the lips of Italian sports fans as they watch their national tour while making frantic hand gestures, having their cheeks pinched by adoring mothers and performing countless other hoary Italian stereotypes.
No, they haven’t all seen a g-g-ghost; it’s because Fabio Aru sits sixth overall at the Giro, and there’s the realistic hope that this cross between David Schwimmer and a fifth former who has won a school competition to race alongside his heroes on Kazakhstan’s Greatest Team might just shine the brightest of the meddling kids roaring to the fore.
The opening half of the race has seemed more open and fresh-faced than a party at Silvio Berlusconi’s place. While canny old codgers like Cadel warily point at the back-loaded mountain brutality of the race’s third week, there’s Majka, Kelderman and Quintana in the thick of things too.
But who is young Aru? He hails from the island of Sardinia, which partly explains a level of communicativeness that would make Edvald Boasson Hagen look like Jonathan Ross. Apparently, Italian journalists haven’t had much joy interviewing the talent.
On a bicycle, he’s all angles, elbows and grimaces too. But all that matters is whether he can show his devastating turn of pace in the mountains on the biggest stage, then match that with the sangfroid and timing of a champion.
Italian scene followers have long known he was set for big things. Aru twice won the mountainous Giro della Valle d’Aosta, a prestigious under-23 race, and has been learning the ropes at Astana since 2012.
At last year’s Giro, he was a key helper for Nibali, recovering from his efforts so well that he was fifth in the snowscape at Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Before this year’s race, national team selector Davide Cassani tipped him to be the surprise of the Giro. Lo and behold, freed from zimmer frame duty for “Medieval” Michele Scarponi, who banged himself up in a stage six crash, this is his big chance.
Not that Aru sounds particularly keen about taking the reins. “Michele is still our captain, I’ll carry on taking it day by day. I’m young, I’ve got a lot to learn,” he said on Sunday regarding a team leader who was 18 minutes down overall with a hip turned the colour of a good steak.
It’s ten years since a similarly shy slip of a lad called Damiano shot from the shadows to Giro glory. The growing consensus is that Fabio Aru will be just as irresistible in the mountains in the near future. As for just how close that is, we haven’t got a Scooby Doo.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
4 – Race wins by Astana in 2014, the lowest of any WorldTour team. Better get learning fast, Fabio.
“I wanted to win, good thing nobody saw.”
After his joyous premature victory celebration with a lap to go on stage seven of the Tour of California, Eloy Teruel has a laugh at himself on Twitter. Good on him: the Spaniard and his Jamis team have probably got more publicity from the faux pas than if he had won the thing.
We were mightily impressed by Garmin-Sharp rider Nathan Haas’s musical talents, in honour of Dan Martin. A brief search unearthed a wealth of melodic pro cyclists:
Giant Shimano directeur sportif Addy Engels aka “The Benelux Boss”.
Saxo-Tinkoff rock n’rollers Matti Breschel, Anders Lund and Chris Juul-Jensen, the Kings of Lucca. Get a load of those tan lines.
Wiggo plays back-up to Weller. Now that’s entertainment.
Impressed by Fabio Aru’s exploits? Got a killer Giro video to share? Get in touch @rouleurmagazine on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org by email.