Mayo: 'Tour is almost over for me'
Monday, July 5, 2004 11.00pm
Already one key team-mate down since the start, Iban Mayo found his team lacked the horsepower to ke
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE The only good thing to come out of today's third stage for Iban Mayo and his Euskaltel team was that the 25-year-old Basque did not pick up an injury when he crashed on the approach to the pav at Erre this afternoon. But it was scant consolation for Mayo, who pointed out after the stage that he has been preparing for this race all season "and that after all the time I've lost, winning the Tour is practically finished for me." Mayo explained that the peloton was very nervous on the approach to Erre, but that he was not in a bad position. Rather, he was simply in no position to take evasive action when the rider in front of him went down. About 30 riders suffered the same fate, with Fassa Bortolo's Marco Velo the worst affected. The Italian was taken away to hospital with a suspected broken collar-bone. Asked if he was surprised when his yellow jersey rivals took advantage of his fall rather than waiting for him, Mayo said: "That was the normal thing to do. I would have done the same thing in the place of Armstrong and co." His team manager Julian Gorospe was contemplating a total change of tactics as a result of today's stage. "With what we lost today and will lose tomorrow the Tour has changed completely for us," he said. "It is just a question of bad luck. We were riding on the front, where we were supposed to be, but it didn't make any difference. We did everything we should. Tonight we have to reconsider everything." Over at US Postal, feelings were much more upbeat. George Hincapie was one of the team's key riders on the stage and he described the first stretch as "very stressful. On big cobbles like that it's imperative to stay at the front. I'm very happy at the way it turned out. We heard that Mayo had fallen, but it would have been impossible to slow down and wait then. The headwind really took its toll. When we came off the cobbles Eki and I were too tired to keep driving after an effort like that. Leipheimer and Heras had caught up by then, so Liberty and Rabobank were happy to take up the chase." Asked by one journalist if his team should have waited in the same way some riders did when Lance Armstrong crashed at Luz Ardiden last year, US Postal team boss Johan Bruyneel said: "I don't see why we should have waited for Mayo. No one waited for the yellow jersey." Euskaltel's horrendous opening to the Tour has left them last in the team standings and, consequently, will make them the first team off in Wednesday's team time trial. Their best hope now would seem to be for the heavy rain that is forecast to hold off until just after three when they are due to finish and most of Mayo's rivals are preparing to start.
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