Fabio Aru is optimistic that 2020 will be the year he re-finds the form that saw the Italian win the 2015 Vuelta a España and finish runner-up at the Giro d'Italia.
After a difficult couple of years, which culminated in the UAE Team Emirates rider missing the 2019 Giro d'Italia to have leg surgery on a constricted iliac artery, he believes he will be back challenging at the front of the peloton for major honours next season.
"I think I lost two years because of my condition," Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "But I am convinced I can get back to my previous climbing levels."
His 14th place finish at the 2019 Tour de France, his first Grand Tour back after surgery, has given him belief going forward and means he will target Grand Tour victories and the Tokyo Olympics during the season ahead.
"I know I have the legs to stay with the top guys. After the operation I finished 14th in the Tour de France. You don't finish in that place by chance," Aru said.
"My target for 2020 are Grand Tours and the Olympics. I performed well in Rio. I'll do anything to be called up."
Age-wise, Aru finds himself in between ageing Grand Tour champions such as Chris Froome (Ineos) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and young guns Egan Bernal (Ineos) and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step). However, having been in the WorldTour since 2012 the Italian fears no-one, and is looking forward to working with his UAE Team Emirates' own young upstart Tadej Pogačar.
"I am not scared by anybody because in the past I had battles with both Contador and Froome in their prime," he said. "Pogacar is strong, we can have fun together."
Aru remains level-headed though, and if his form doesn't live up to his self-belief, the climber says he may consider stepping back from the sport entirely.
"If I'm not able to compete with the best I will think about taking a step back. I don't like to scrape along," Aru said, but regardless of any doubts the Italian is ready for the new season, and is eyeing up Tirreno-Adriatico as well as the rumoured return of the Tour of Sardinia.
"If the Giro di Sardegna comes back after Tirreno-Adriatico as has been rumoured, I will be at the start," Aru said.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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