UAE Team Emirates Fabio Aru will step up his preparations for next month’s Giro d’Italia when he tackles the Tour of the Alps starting in Italy on Monday.
The five-day race, going from Trentino and over the border to Innsbruck in Austria, will be a serious dress rehearsal for the Giro with Chris Froome and Miguel Angel Lopez among the other star names competing this week.
Aru, who has enjoyed a bright start to life with the UAE outfit, will be using the race to build up his fitness after withdrawing from the Volta a Catalunya last month due to a leg injury.
The 27-year-old crashed during the first stage of the race but continued to compete until the fifth stage before pulling out to allow his leg to recover.
Now back on his bike, Aru is relishing the prospect of repeating his early season form which saw him seal 13th place in the Abu Dhabi Tour and 12th in the Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Sardinian climber said. “I feel great. I’m going to find it tough at the Tour of the Alps, where I want to do well and prepare in the best possible way with an eye on my big goal, the Giro d’Italia.”
“It will be a difficult race, and there’s no shortage of climbs. It’s important to ride wisely, and whatever happens in the race, we’ll face when we get to it.”
Stage one on Monday sees the peloton tackle the 134.6km course from Arco to Folgaria, with an 18km climb to finish the day.
UAE Team Emirates line-up: Fabio Aru (Ita), Valerio Conti (Ita), Kristijan Durasek (Cro), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol), Simone Petilli (Ita), Edward Ravasi (Ita).
Dan Martin and Rui Costa will lead UAE Team Emirates as the World Tour heads to Holland and Belgium for the Ardennes Classics on Sunday.
UAE Team Emirates has announced a strong team for the three races held within an eight-day timeframe, including Matteo Bono, Manuele Mori, Aleksandr Riabushenko, Rory Sutherland and Diego Ulissi.
The programme starts with the Amstel Gold Race in Holland on April 15, followed by the Fleche Wallonne in Belgium three days later and then the Liege-Bastogne-Liege on April 22.
More than one million spectators are reported to gather for the three classics, which is now in its 29th year.
Irishman Martin will be using the Ardennes as a serious stepping stone towards the Tour de France in July – where he has achieved two top-10 finishes since 2016.
The 31-year-old, who captured the 2013 Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finished second in the 2017 edition of the Doyennes, is relishing the prospect of repeating his consistent displays in Belgium.
He said “Training gone well since Volta a Catalunya despite the heavy crash on the last stage. I’ve been in good condition all season but bad luck prevented me from showing it in results.
“I feel ready to head into some of my favourite races.”
His UAE team-mate Costa has also demonstrated his class in the Ardennes, finishing fourth in the 2015 Amstel Gold Race, fourth in the 2016 edition and fourth in the 2015 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The 31-year-old, who finished 12th in the Tour of the Basque Country last week, said: “I’m coming to the Ardennes with high morale and I’m confident that I can race to bring the team some significant results.
“The competition in these races is always fierce, but UAE Team Emirates will bring high quality; it’s an advantage to be able to count on a strong group.”
There were contrasting fortunes for two English cyclists in the women’s time trial at the Commonwealth Games – joy for bronze medalist Hayley Simmonds, but despair for Melissa Lowther.
Simmonds, who took up the sport to get in shape and shed nearly half her body weight, won time trial bronze on Tuesday.
A tearful Simmonds was overcome with emotion at the finish line and looked stunned when she placed third in the same event compatriot Lowther was due to race in – but an administrative error meant she could not be registered in time.
Simmonds’ triumph is the result of years of vigorous training which saw her drop 45 kilos (100 pounds).
“I showed Julian (Julian Winn, her coach) a picture of me from 2011 and he didn’t believe it was me, I lost like 45kg,” the 29-year-old said.
“As soon as I started doing time trials my competitive nature took over, it’s been hard.”
Simmonds, who now weighs 55kg, describes baking as one of her hobbies. “There have been times I’ve wanted to go and eat a big cake,” she said.
Simmonds, who did a PhD in chemistry at the University of Cambridge, will also go in the women’s road race on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Games.
Lowther, meanwhile, said she was “gutted” after her Commonwealth Games dreams were shattered because team officials failed to register her for the race.
Lowther was forced out of the individual time trial after an administrative blunder meant she was not formally entered into the event on Australia’s Gold Coast.
“I can’t put into words how disappointed I am to have been missed off the start list due to an admin error,” the 21-year-old wrote on Instagram.
“It was one of my targets this season to make selection for the time-trial event and I was so proud that my hard work in training had paid off.
“While Team England have apologised, I’m still gutted not to have the opportunity to represent my country after all the hard miles I’ve put in.”
Lowther will still compete in the women’s road race on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Games.
Team England chef de mission Sarah Winckless said a last-ditch appeal to include Lowther in Tuesday’s event had failed.
“I have spoken to Melissa to offer my sincere apologies to her, her coaches and to British Cycling,” Winckless said.
“Melissa has trained hard for and focused on this race and it should never be the case that an error on our part prevents an athlete from showing what she can do.
“We appealed to the Commonwealth Games Federation to allow Melissa into the race, but it was not possible at such short notice.
“Team England will be conducting a review to understand how the situation has arisen and how it can be prevented from happening again.”
Lowther is not the first participant at the Games to fall victim to a paperwork blunder.
India’s weightlifters are having to treat one another’s aches and pains because the required documents for their physio’s accreditation were not submitted in time.
Aakrant Saxena flew to the Gold Coast with the Indian team but was refused entry to the athletes’ village and training and competition venues.