Instead of trying to confirm his favourite status for the Alpe TT, Iban Mayo is back home working ouPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Iban Mayo's fragile mental state led to his decision not to start yesterday's Villard de Lans stage, and the Basque left the race with his thoughts already on next year's Tour and how he might better prepare for it. Almost unbeatable in April and then in June at the Dauphin Libr, Mayo was completely off the pace expected of him at the Tour and almost quit the race in the Pyrenees such was his frustration. Now, according to Euskaltel team boss Miguel Madariaga, set to ride the Tour of Spain in September with co-team leader Haimar Zubeldia, who did abandon in the Pyrenees with knee trouble, Mayo told Spanish paper Marca he had no idea what was the matter with him. "In the last few days I've had a sore throat, which isn't normal," he said, clutching at straws. Although Madariaga said the decision to pull Mayo out of the race was taken to enable him to be fresher for the Vuelta, the rider himself said he is not thinking about riding the the Vuelta - "I'm not a machine," he said - and offered a more fundamental reason for his Tour abandon. "I went out training on the rest day and after 15 kilometres I was struggling to stay with my team-mates. We decided the wait until the next morning to see how I felt but when I woke up I felt even worse. Myself, Madariaga and [team manager] Julian Gorospe met with the doctor and we decided it was best for me to abandon." Instead of struggling all the way into Paris, Mayo opted to return to the Basque Country and undergo medical assessment, although he believes there is nothing seriously wrong with him. "I've got no reason to reproach myself on the sporting side," he said, 'it's all been down to bad luck, crashes, injuries and my health, and I can't do anything about that." He denied having suffered a psychological crash, stating that he had not felt good since the stage he fell before the pav sections. He also poured scorn on US Postal team manager Johan Bruyneel's opinion that he had lost the Tour even before he started it. "That's pure stupidity," he said. "My preparation wasn't been the issue, it's been other things. This Tour has taught me and my team a lot. We have to change." And in 2005? "I'm already thinking about it, but what really annoys me is that the route this year suited me perfectly."