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"I have a close connection with Fabio. We live close to each other and we will both be training together and have race schedules that will in principle be similar."

Photo: Sirotti




08.12.2014 @ 07:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Paolo Tiralongo may have finished in the top 10 in the Vuelta a Espana and won two stages of the Giro d'Italia but the time when he is riding for himself is over. Next year he again plans to be the mentor and loyal domestique for Fabio Aru who he will follow closely throughout the entire season.


A life as a domestique. That has been Paolo Tiralongo's job for several years and the veteran has no regrets that he has sacrificed his own ambitions to help his teammates. In recent years, the Sicialian has been the shadow and mentor for Fabio Aru and in 2015 he doesn't expect his role to change. The experienced Italian is ready for his sixth year with Astana and wants to continue supporting his captain's growth into a world class grand tour rider.


Tiralongo recently started his planning of the new season when he attended the team gathering in Montecatini Terme.


"I feel good," he told Spaziociclismo in an interview. "We have started again after a quiet period. We have recharged the batteries and we are here to lay the foundations for 2015. From here, the real season begins.


"As every year, I will have a quite challenging schedule. I will have to do major races and as always be ready to support my captains. So in every race I have to be prepared for any kind of challenge."


Last year Tiralongo took the role of mentor for Fabio Aru with whom he shared an almost identical race program.


"I have a close connection with Fabio," he said. "We live close to each other and we will both be training together and have race schedules that will in principle be similar. As always, we will train at altitude, with three very important blocks, and we will race a bit more than we did last year because in the Giro you need to be prepared right from the start, with the uphill finish in stage 4 and the stages in Liguria which are not easy.



"We have not decided whether to do Tirreno - Adriatico or Paris - Nice, though but we will certainly do one of them. We will be at the start of the Volta a Catalunya also then make a nice training camp at altirude. We will see if we will do [Trofeo] Melinda while Aru is almost guaranteed to do the Giro del Trentino and Liège - Bastogne - Liège."


With a third place in the Giro d'Italia and fifth place in the Vuelta a Espana and stage wins in both grand tours, Aru exceeded expectations in 2014.


"I have known Fabio for six years so now I know his potential," Tiralongo said. "I know what he can do and we all saw what he managed to do this year. There are still things to improve, like the time trial, but when he is fit, he can do everything on the climbs. He has very little to improve, maybe only his time trialling. Obviously he has to grow and gain experience, to build an athlete because he is only 25 years old and is very young.


"I always tell him that he needs to keep his feet on the ground because you can be at 100% for a race but it always takes a bit of luck. A small distraction, a lot of small things can affect the goal. If we go to the Giro, we will aim for the podium because this is the minimum we can do. Then we will se if more is possible. I will be with him because it is important to have people close to you and compared to other years when it was just me, we will have a team that is build around him."


In the off-season, Astana have made a number of key signings that should make the team stronger in the grand tours.


"We signed them on purpose for that role," Tiralondo said. "In recent years, I was domestique from kilometre zero to the point where I was dropped but I also had my off-days during a three-week race because I am also human. I sat down with [sports director Giuseppe] Martinelli and we talked about how to build a team by bringing in riders that can support Aru, like [Diego] Rosa who can be his final man, [Dario] Cataldo who is a very good rider, and Luis Leon Sanchez who is very experienced and can do so much for our team. Everything is focused on giving him the best possible team and maybe have an extra rider in the finale."


In the past, Tiralongo has finished in the top in the Vuelta and he has won two stages in the Giro. However, he is no longer harbouring any big personal ambitions.


"To have a nice time in cycling, I think you have to find out what you can do with your qualities and how far you can get," he said. "There are only a few champions - you can count them in one hand - and many good riders but to be a good rider, you need to understand what you are capabl of and make your choices. I have made the choice to be a domestique because I realized that I was not a phenomenon. It is useless that I ask too much of myself and my team. If there is an opportunity, I won't pull the brakes but there is always going to be a champion that is a little better than me and I know that. If it happens, I will take my chance but it is not my goal and it is not what the team expects from me."



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