Astana team manager says Fabio Aru is "shaping up to be one of the best climbers in the world"

Fabio Aru, according to many insiders, will develop into Italy’s next big thing. The Sardinian helped his country’s Grand Tour star Vincenzo Nibali win the Giro d’Italia last year and is tipped for similar success.

“Everyone expects a lot from me,” Aru told Cycling Weekly. “Me too. I hope to already see progress from last year’s Giro d’Italia.”

The 23-year-old strapped on his helmet and readied to board his blue and white team Astana bike this morning ahead of stage five. The riders raced through Puglia and Basilicata, the very south of Italy. It is not Aru’s land, that is up north in the Alps.

“He’s one of the few climbers around, a pure climber who can attack on the big climbs and make big differences,” team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli said.

“He’s not yet like Nairo Quintana, who showed something special at the Tour de France, but he’s shaping up to be one of the best climbers in the world.”

Last year in his first Giro d’Italia, he defended Nibali’s lead and finished strongly. On the final mountain stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, he placed fifth.

“You don’t do that unless you’re talented,” Martinelli said. “That came after he worked for the team and did half the Giro sick. That fifth was a little bit of his starting point.”

Nibali raced the Tour of Romandy against eventual winner Chris Froome two weeks ago. Like Froome, he is building towards the Tour de France and left the Giro d’Italia off his schedule.

Aru will work for 2011 Giro winner Michele Scarponi. Without Nibali, they will have more freedom. Martinelli explained, however, that the wins should start to come in 2015.

“Next year and beyond, we can start to see something special from him,” Martinelli said. “We are not putting pressure on him in this year’s Giro, sitting the bar high where if he fails, he’ll be upset.”

As an amateur, Aru placed second in the Baby Giro d’Italia behind Joe Dombrowski in 2012. He won the Giro della Val d’Aosta twice.

Ahead of the Giro d’Italia this year, he took the best young rider’s jersey behind overall winner Cadel Evans at the Giro del Trentino. Martinelli added that has a good motor, is suited to the climbs, but just needs to develop further, both mentally and physically.

The further he goes, the more Sardinia will be proud. Though now living in Bergamo, he is only one of six professional riders from the Island in cycling history with Domenico Uccheddu, Antonio Laconi, Giovanni Garau, Emiliano Murtas and Alberto Loddo.