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The main focus in Saturday's time trial may have been Lance Armstrong's passing of Jan Ullrich, but there is no doubt that the day's biggest loser was Euskaltel's Iban Mayo, who finished a staggering 3-13 down. The 27-year-old Basque has built his whole season around the Tour, but started it with what he described as "the worst time trial of my life". He had previously predicted that he would lose about a minute to the specialists.
"People who know me well are well aware that I normally ride much better in time trials than I did on Saturday," Mayo, who recorded his team's worst time, told El Diario Vasco. "Some people who were watching couldn't believe they were watching me. It's not normal for me to only beat 15 riders. It has hit me hard, but we'll see how I get on in the team time trial."
Mayo, who is believed to be slightly above his ideal racing weight after a season when he has generally held himself back for the Tour, is hoping that Tuesday's team time trial will see a change in his form. If not, he could enter his favourite terrain in the mountains as much as six minutes down on some of his rivals for the yellow jersey.
But even if Mayo and his Euskaltel team-mates have a good day on Tuesday, they are almost certain to lose more time on the main contenders. This does not wash well with team manager Julian Gorospe, who has allowed Mayo a lot of leeway this season with the Tour in mind, received considerable flak for doing so when his team struggled through the early months of the season, and now sees his team leader almost at the back of the Tour field.
"The truth is that nobody was expecting Mayo to lose that kind of time in the time trial," said Gorospe. "He lost the same time in 19 kilometres that he normally loses in 50. But this isn't the time to dwell on this because we need Mayo to rediscover his form. We all knew that his preparation was a little bit behind where it should have been, although I repeat that what happened on Saturday surprised us by just how negative it was. But we will surely have better days ahead."
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