Fabio Aru feels he is going through an “abnormal” period of his career as his miserable Giro d’Italia ended on Friday when the UAE Team Emirates rider abandoned the race just over an hour into Stage 19.
The team’s leader had lost time on almost every mountain stage and found himself down in 27th place overall at the start of Friday’s stage, more than 45 minutes down on race leader Simon Yates.
Italian Aru had fought his way inside the top 10 early on but slowly began to slip out of contention.
His team confirmed the former Astana man’s exit on Friday, with no indication Aru was suffering with illness or any other problem.
The 27-year-old, however, admits he is going through an “abnormal” period of his career.
“I’m really sorry for all this, for my team, my family and the sponsors that I represent, but it didn’t make sense to go ahead,” said Aru.
“I had said that I’ll evaluate my feelings day by day because I feel that I’m going through an abnormal period of my sporting career.
“I wanted to keep going and honour the team’s jersey, give the fans something and the race its due respect. But I couldn’t do it.”
There were high hopes of Aru, the Italian champion, replicating prior success at his home Grand Tour heading into this year’s Giro, following his move to UAE Team Emirates this season.
After two disappointing attempts at the Tour de France, it was hoped he could rediscover his 2015 form, when he finished runner-up at the Giro and then won the Vuelta a Espana later in the year.
Sadly, @FabioAru1 abandoned the Giro during today’s stage. He spoke openly about how difficult it was for him to stop his home race. #UAETeamEmirates #Giro101 https://t.co/7asWsmNS7r pic.twitter.com/ErFDNNvbuL— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) 25 May 2018
Yet his struggles were evident from early on. He lost a chunk of time on the opening-day time trial in Jerusalem, and although he finished with the favourites on Mount Etna on Stage 6, he lost more than a minute on the Stage 9 summit finish at Gran Sasso.
The second weekend saw any faint hopes of a podium evaporate. He lost two minutes on Monte Zoncolan on Stage 14, but alarmingly conceded another 19 on the following day’s stage to Sappada, which left him 22nd overall, and 25 minutes down on Yates.
After the final rest day on Monday, a remarkable resurgence seemed on the cards when Aru finished sixth on the 34.2km Stage 16 time trial, though it soon emerged how he might have achieved such a surprising result against the clock as he was penalised for drafting.
Aru finished 112th on Stage 17 and 122nd on the summit finish at Prato Nevoso on Stage 18, and it was unclear if the legs were empty or if he was saving himself for an assault on stage wins in the final two big mountain stages.
The question was answered just over an hour into Friday’s big mountain stage, before the riders had hit the Colle delle Finestre and onto Sestriere, scene of a famous stage win for Aru at the 2015 Giro.
“I’m not going to be dramatic, this is sport and maybe, even if it hurts to say so now, this sport is beautiful,” added Aru.
“I’ll try to reset and understand together with the team what happened, then I’ll restart thinking of the rest of the season. Because this is what you have to do in difficult moments.”
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