Only yesterday Fabio Aru (Astana) told the press that he was going to target a stage in the mountains of the Criterium du Dauphine but the Italian delivered earlier than expected with an impressive win on stage 3 in Touron-sur-Rhone.
He soared down the descent of the Côte de Sécheras – the final climb of the stage – to take his first win since his Vuelta a Espana crown last summer. And this was meant to be a stage for the sprinters but when Alexandre Kristoff – second on the day – cursed the air and thumbed his bars in anger, Aru held his arms in the air and saluted the crowd.
Aru’s ability to hold off a bunch of sprinters’ teams in the finale also fired a shot across the bows of his Tour rivals. After losing time in two of the three previous stages, the 2015 Vuelta winner has given a clear indication of the benefits from his latest stint at altitude.
“This morning I thought about trying something. I came into this race having not raced for a long time. My last race was Amstel Gold and I then spent 23 days training at altitude. So when I arrived here I didn’t have the speed in my legs and I lost time in the opening time trial. That stage wasn’t really for me,” he said in his post-race press conference.
“On stage 2, I didn’t race for myself but to help Diego Rosa and Luis Leon Sanchez so that they could be at the front. Then with 700 metres to go I let go but even though I lost some time yesterday I felt better than I did in the first two stages.”
Unlike Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, the Astana rider isn’t locked in a battle for seconds here at the Dauphine. When he lost time on stage 2 he simply shrugged his shoulders and smiled. When he says that the Dauphine is all about the Tour prep he really means it.
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