2021 Vuelta a España came to a close on Sunday, so too did the career of one Fabio Aru (Qhubeka-NextHash).
It’s been a tough few years for the 31-year-old former Italian champ. His career peaked between 2014 and 2017, with overall victory at the 2015 Vuelta and stage wins at all three Grand Tours. And while he has shown occasional flashes of brilliance since those golden years, he hasn’t quite reached the same heights as he did during that four-year period.
Aru’s 2021 has been his best season for several years, with second overall at both the Sibiu Cycling Tour in July and the Vuelta a Burgos in August. At the Vuelta, Aru was around the mark until stage 10 when a stomach bug derailed his plans. He was on the verge of abandoning but pushed through to finish the race in 51st overall.
As Aru rides off into the sunset we wanted to pay tribute to one of the sport’s great animators. For years Aru entertained us, not just with his explosive, emotion-fuelled attacks in the mountains, but with some of the most expressive facial contortions we’ve seen in pro cycling. There’s a reason the
Faces of Aru Instagram page attracted something of a cult following.
The following gallery features both highlights from Aru’s career, and a selection of some of the many wonderful facial expressions he’s entertained us with over the years. From all of us to you, Fabio: thank you for all the entertainment, congratulations on a great career, and all the best for whatever comes next.
Aru’s professional victories
– 2014 Giro d’Italia, stage 15
– 2014 Vuelta a España, stage 11 – 2014 Vuelta a España, stage 18
– 2015 Giro d’Italia, stage 19
– 2015 Giro d’Italia, stage 20 – 2015 Vuelta a España, overall
– 2016 Criterium du Dauphine, stage 3
– 2017 Italian Nationals Road Race
– 2017 Tour de France, stage 5 Aru’s team history
2012: Stagiare with Astana 2013-2017: Astana 2018-2020: UAE Team Emirates 2021: Qhubeka NextHash
Aru turned pro with Astana in 2013 after a stagiaire role in 2012. He rode with the team through to the end of 2017. He’s pictured here at the 2014 Giro … … a day before his first professional victory, on stage 15 of his home Grand Tour. Aru won solo on the uphill finish to Plan di Montecampione. Not a bad way to take your first pro win. Aru borrowed the best young rider’s jersey for a while at the Giro. Aru ended up finishing third overall in the 2014 Giro, behind Nairo Quintana and Rigo Uran. Aru won stage 11 of the Vuelta later that year, ahead of one Chris Froome. Aru didn’t enjoy the rain during the 2015 Giro … … but had plenty to smile about on stage 13 when he moved into the overall lead. He lost the lead the following day in the time trial … … but gurned like a champ in the process. After borrowing the white jersey a year earlier, Aru made it his own at the 2015 Giro. He took it on stage 5 and wore it all the way to the end, including on stage 19 … … where he rode to another solo win on an uphill finish, this time at Cervinia. Aru was on the move again the following day, on the gravel road of the Colle delle Finestre. For the second straight day Aru won solo … … ultimately setting up second overall on GC by race’s end, behind Alberto Contador and ahead of teammate Mikel Landa. The greatest success of Aru’s career came later that year, at the 2015 Vuelta. Aru didn’t win a stage, but with four top-five finishes, he did enough to win the race overall – the first and only Grand Tour success of his career. Here he is finishing 24th on stage 20, taking the lead from Tom Dumoulin. Aru beat Joaquim Rodriguez and Rafal Majka to take the Vuelta’s top prize. Aru added another win to his palmares on stage 3 of the 2016 Dauphiné. Aru in action at the 2016 Tour de France. As photographer Kristof Ramon wrote in his caption for this photo: “Fabio Aru in full Maori/Haka-mode” during the stage 18 ITT at the 2016 Tour. He finished third that day. A cold and wet Aru gets a helping hand from Diego Rosa on stage 20 of the 2016 Tour. Aru with Vincenzo Nibali at the presentation for the 2017 Giro. Aru congratulates teammate Jakob Fuglsang after the latter won the 2017 Dauphine. Aru won the 2017 Italian road title with another solo attack. Aru’s final career win was one of his most memorable. On stage 5 of the 2017 Tour de France, on the uphill finish to La Planches des Belle Filles, Aru punched away … … and rode to a solo victory in the Italian Tricolore. That stage win gave Aru the KOM jersey which he’d wear for three days. A wonderful snarl from a wonderful rider. On stage 12 of the 2017 Tour, Aru completed his collection of Grand Tour GC jerseys. He moved into the lead at the Tour … … and wore yellow for two days. On stage 14, Aru lost yellow as Chris Froome took control of the race. Aru slipped down the GC in the days that followed. Iconic. He ultimately ended the Tour in fifth place overall, the best result of his career. After missing the 2016 Vuelta, Aru returned in 2017. He took a few top-10 finishes … … but wasn’t able to do better than 13th overall. Third place for Aru at the 2017 Milano-Torino. In 2018, Aru moved to UAE Team Emirates, joining the likes of Alexander “The Stavanger Stallion” Kristoff, and Dan Martin. The 2018 Giro d’Italia would end up being Aru’s last. He took two top-10 finishes but ultimately left the race on stage 19, citing lingering fatigue. In 2019, Aru finished 14th at the Tour – his best GC placing of any race that season. His season was heavily disrupted by a constriction of the iliac artery which required surgery and slowed him down for several months. Aru had another forgettable season in 2020. At the Tour de France (pictured here) he abandoned on stage 9, invoking the ire of team advisor Giuseppe Saronni: “Aru disappointed us. He has problems, also psychological problems. He doesn’t react at first difficulties, he goes down, he doesn’t have that character. We should do evaluations on who took the decision to bring [him to the] Tour de France.” Aru returned to his cyclocross roots in the 2020/2021 offseason and while it doesn’t look like it here, he thoroughly enjoyed himself. In 2021, Aru joined Qhubeka NextHash and seemed more at ease that we’d seen him in a while. He took second on a stage of the Sibiu Tour in Romania … … and second overall. He went second overall at the Vuelta a Burgos too. And so to Aru’s final race: the 2021 Vuelta a España. Aru was on the attack at several stages throughout the race but ultimately finished his career with an individual time trial. Farewell Fabio, and thanks for all the memories!