As Chris Froome of Team Sky and Fabio Aru of UAE-Emirates have taken a seat at the Casinò in Arco for the traditional opening day’s press conference, one thing stood out clearly: the Tour of the Alps is much, much more than just a step towards the Giro d’Italia. Both coming off less-than-perfect early season stints, for different reasons, Froome and Aru have come to the Euroregional stage race, starting tomorrow with the first stage from Arco to Folgaria, with a clear ambition of leaving problems behind and making a clear statement of what’s to expect from them in the first Grand Tour of the year.
“I feel so much better than Tirreno-Adriatico, my last race to date – said Froome – and I am coming here on the heels of a period of preparation in altitude and have been in recognition on Giro d’Italia stages over this last few days. I have never taken this race myself, but at Team Sky we know very well how beautiful and how demanding this event is. Our success at this race hasn’t converted to as much at the Giro so far, but that doesn’t mean anything to me: I am here to go for a good result.”
On his own, Fabio Aru shows confidence in having completely recovered from his knee issues from the Tour of Catalunya: “The Tour of the Alps – Giro del Trentino at the time – was the first race I have managed to feature prominently as a pro, back in 2013. In that year, Nibali was the last Italian to date to win the race – and went on to win the Maglia Rosa: I have been short of luck in my recent Giro d’Italia run, I certainly wouldn’t regret repeating his feat.”
Taking part in the press conference was also Italian Cycling Federation President Renato Di Rocco, who stressed the significant rise in importance of the Tour of the Alps over the last few years: “I really wish to congratulate GS Alto Garda for making this impressive progression in every term – quality of participation, media coverage, communication. The race organization has reached very high standards on the international scale, and we can’t be anything but proud.”
After the public teams’ presentation in Arco on Sunday evening, with the parade of the 20 teams at the start, now everything is ready and set for the real action to take off. If Tuesday’s severe uphill finish to the Alpe di Pampeago is set to pose the hardest test for Froome, Aru and the fellow contenders, it wouldn’t be wise to underestimate the challenge of tomorrow, Monday, on the 134,6 km way from Arco to Folgaria. Indeed, the opening stage of the new edition is a perfect prototype of the Tour of the Alps’ race formula: short distance, and intense stage route to make things interesting until the final meters.
Tomorrow (start at 11.30), the rider will face the first two categorized climbs, Andalo after 50 kilometers, and then the 19 km ascent to Serrada: when on the top, the riders will have only six kilometers left (mostly downhill) to the finish line in Folgaria. But there is still a sting in the tail: an 800 mt. final drag up leading to the finish line, where those who regrouped together after Serrada will leave all they have left to take the opening stage and the leader’s jersey designed by Northwave Custom Project. It might not be this stage to decide who will win the Tour of the Alps, but certainly giving up seconds could affect anybody’s chances.
Before the press conference, Froome was studying carefully the profile of the stage and the Serrada climb. Maybe we won’t wait to wait to see the first sparkles of the 2018 TotA.
The stage will be live broadcasted from 14.00 to 15.30 CET on Eurosport 1 (Europe, Asia, Oceania), RaiSport (Italy), Bike Channel (Italy), ORF (Austria), TV 2 (Denmark), L’Equipe (France), Eleven (North America), FloBikes (North America, Central America, South America), SkySport (New Zeland) and Econet (Africa).
Live streaming broadcasting available also on PMG Sport Facebook page and on the following web portals: Pmgsport.it, Repubblica.it, Gazzetta.it, inbici.net, cicloweb.it, pulsemedia.it, oasport.it, LaPresse.it, Corrieredellosport.it, Tg.la7.it, Federciclismo.it, Tuttobiciweb.it, Cyclingpro.net, SpazioCiclismo.it, CiclismoSport.Go.tv, Mondiali.net e DirettaCiclismo.it.