'The Vuelta a España will be the usual horrendous race, the toughest stage race of 2017'

Fabio Aru expects a hard race over the next three weeks

Fabio Aru in action at the 2015 Vuelta a España

(Image credit: Watson)

Race winner in 2015, Fabio Aru (Astana) says that the 2017 Vuelta a España will be the "usual horrendous race" and the "toughest stage race of the 2017 season".

Aru begins as one of the favourites alongside the likes of Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Team Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) when the race starts on Saturday in Nîmes, France.

"I know it's going to be the usual horrendous race, the toughest stage race of the 2017 season," Aru told Tutto Bici. "The typical Vuelta with uphill finishes, short and intense efforts, only a few massive mountain stages, but many stages with 20% finals."

>>> Seven things to look out for at the Vuelta a España 2017

Compared to the Tour de France's three summit finishes this year, the Vuelta a España route includes over next three weeks. They begin with stage five to Ermita Santa Lucía in Alcossebre and fall evenly throughout.

Stage 15 will finish at 2510 metres in Sierra Nevada and stage 20 will climb the Angliru, a frequently visited monster with 23.5% gradients. New for 2017, organiser Unipublic is including the Los Machucos forest service-type road, with poor cement slabs and pitches up up to 31 per cent.

In an attempt to balance the course, the race will start with a 13.7-kilometre team time trial and also includes an individual time trial on stage 16, measuring 40.2km to Logroño.

Watch: Vuelta a España 2017 essential guide

Froome trained at altitude in the French Alps, but Aru, fifth overall in the Tour, opted to stay at his home in Lugano, Switzerland.

"I recharged the batteries and looked after myself, while keeping a close eye on nutrition and the usual details," he said. "I had steady rides, but without excessive loads. Anyhow, coming out of the Tour, you have base condition."

It could be Aru's last big race with Astana. After six years, insiders say that he will be moving to UAE Team Emirates for the 2018 season. The deal is reportedly already signed.

>>> Cycling transfers 2018: All the ins and outs from the WorldTour

"My relations with Astana were not tense before and they aren't now. With my agent/lawyer, we're analysing a solution for the future. Soon you will know everything," Aru said.

"Meanwhile, however, there is this Vuelta and I have a good team, with a young prospect like [Miguel Angel] Lopez, several climbers, and a team captain like Luis León Sánchez. I have everything to do well. The future will begin after Madrid, in fact after Lombardia, my last finish line of the season. "

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