Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) says he remaining 'realistic' at the Tour de France 2019 following his comeback after an operation.
The Italian took four months off racing earlier this year to have an operation on a constricted iliac artery in his left leg, which has caused his performances to dramatically fall from where they had been in the past. Aru struggled through the 2018 Giro d'Italia before abandoning on stage 19, which he called "one of the darkest moments of my career."
Following a successful operation in March this year, the 29-year-old returned to racing at the Swiss one-day race Gran Premio Città di Lugano before riding the Italian National Championships road race and the Tour de Suisse ahead of the Tour de France.
While he has been unable to show the attacking flair that won him the 2015 Vuelta a España and take two podium spots in the Giro d'Italia in 2014 and 2015, Aru has been able to remain for large parts of the race in the front group among the main GC contenders.
He currently sits in 17th place overall at 14-15 down on race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), under three minutes behind his team leader for the race Dan Martin who sits in 15th place overall.
Aru says he is pleased with his performance at the Tour considering the level of racing and how much he has missed of the season, however adds that he is trying to not get ahead of himself as he continues rebuilding following his stint on the sidelines.
“The pace held in the final over the last two days was really high and it was impossible for me to do more than what I did, I just miss this kind of fatigue in my legs," Aru said following the final weekend in the Pyrenees.
"Also yesterday [stage 15] we went very strong all day and I stayed there at the front of the race as long as I could: we know that I lack a certain type of work and that my condition can only grow. I am the first one to always expect so much from myself but I think it is right to be realistic too: we are at the Tour de France, one of the most demanding races, and I have been coming from several months without racing, so it is really difficult to be competitive.
"What really interests me is to grow and get out of these three weeks with a good condition, in view of the upcoming events. Today we rest and then we will see how to interpret the last week of this Tour, which promises to be very, very hard."
The Tour now heads into a rest day on Monday with two transition stages to the Alps on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday however, the race heads back into the mountains with a stage over the the Col d'Izoard and the Col du Galibier before a downhill finish into Valliore. There are then two difficult summit finishes to Tignes and Val Thorens to complete the GC fight in the Tour.
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