Shorts: Mayo, Lance, Basso

adariaga blames Mayo's stress, Liquigas back with more money, VDB latest, Hamilton wins Open, Lance

adariaga blames Mayo's stress, Liquigas back with more money, VDB latest, Hamilton wins Open, Lance
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE * Euskaltel-Euskadi manager Miguel Madariaga believes that a stress-induced mental block was to blame for Iban Mayo's shocking performance in the Pyrenees. "Iban's problem was of a purely mental nature: he just couldn't stand the pressure," commented Madariaga on Sunday. Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc, meanwhile, moved to quash any speculation linking Mayo's past successes or current failures with doping. "Sources at the UCI have told me that, if they have concerns about certain Euskaltel riders, Mayo is not one of them," Leblanc affirmed. * According to sources in Italy, Liquigas will make its return to the peloton as a main team sponsor in 2005 after a four-year absence. Armed with a four-year sponsorship package said to be worth around five million euros per season, the team is expected to lure Roberto Damiani from Fassa Bortolo to be its manager and figurehead. Stefano Garzelli, too, has apparently already agreed to sign. Damiani is also the favourite to land Filippo Pozzato, ahead of Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel, should Pozzato leave Fassa. * Concern is growing for the well-being of Belgian maverick genius Franck Vandenbroucke. Out of the spotlight since an encouraging Classics display this spring, Vandenbroucke, say sources in Belgium, has scarcely touched a bicycle since. Instead VDB has been pursuing his interest in four-wheeled machines, and has splashed out a six-figure sum on a Lamborghini sports car. Vandenbroucke is also rumoured to be living separately from Italian wife Sara. * Andreas Klden's impressive display in the first two weeks of the Tour has made his services some of the most coveted in the peloton. Gerolsteiner and Quick Step-Davitamon head the queue to tempt the 29-year-old away from T-Mobile, with Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevere seeing the Berliner as a vital accessory to their bid to win the Tour de France within four years. Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis is not believed to be in the hunt, but said on Monday that Klden had "finally become a bike rider" at the 2004 Tour. "The fact that Ivan [Basso] and Andreas are riding so well can only be good for the future of major tours," commented Riis. * Contrary to widespread perception and even his own admission, Lance Armstrong is stronger in 2004 than he was at the 2002 Tour de France. This, at least, is according to ex-Festina doctor turned performance guru and anti-doping crusader Antoine Vayer, who analysed Armstrong performances in the Pyrenees in Monday's edition of Libration. Armstrong and Ivan Basso, Vayer's calculated, climbed to La Mongie in 45 seconds fewer than Armstrong managed in 2002. A day later a group of 40 riders beat the record split Richard Virenque established on the Col de l'Aspin in 1995 by well over two minutes. Armstrong is said to have outstripped Marco Pantani's 1998 best on the Plateau de Beille by a similar margin. According to Vayer, Armstrong has never generated more watts through his pedals on a summit finish than at La Mongie on Friday, not even at Hautacam in 2000. * After making some heartless connections between Tyler Hamilton's Tour de France abandonment and the death of his pet dog, Tugboat, at the weekend, cynics in the press room briefly considered another ulterior motive for the Phonak star leaving the Tour on Saturday. Giving the international sports press its daily once over, more than one hack tripped up on the name "T Hamilton" lording it over T Woods, E Els and P Mickelson and Co on, of all places, the leaderboard of the British Open golf tournament at Royal Troon. The image was an irresistible one: Hamilton, bad back and all, nipping on a flight to the West Coast of Scotland, reeling off rounds of 71, 67, 67 and 69, holding the Claret Jug aloft in his Phonak team kit come Sunday teatime. Alas, the fun was spoiled when T Hamilton turned out to be Todd (whose eldest son is called Tyler!), a 38-year-old from Illinois, who sure enough did go on to win in a playoff against Els. In any case, a Danish journalist had spied Tyler and wife Haven by the coffee machine at a L'Arche service station, just south of Montpellier, at about lunchtime on Sunday..
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