Mayo edges out Tyler and Lance

Several of the Tour's big things are tackling the tough Dauphine Libere stage race, where Iban Mayo

Several of the Tour’s big things are tackling the tough Dauphine Libere stage race, where Iban Mayo

Iban Mayo repeated his Dauphin Libr prologue performance of last year when he won the opening section of the French race in Megve on Sunday. The Euskaltel rider finished a second clear of Tyler Hamilton, with defending Dauphin champion Lance Armstrong a further half second back in third. World time trial champion David Millar was 11th, 12 seconds down on Mayo. Mayo sealed his advantage on the 1,200-metre-long hill in the second part of the 5.4-kilometre course. Sections there reached 9%, and the in-form Basque made the most of the gradient. Mayo said afterwards that he had lost two or three seconds by coming into the final bend too quickly and being forced to brake hard to avoid the barriers. Armstrong, winner of this race for the past two years, said he was not focusing on a hat-trick of wins. Armstrong admitted after last year’s sun-scorched Dauphin success his Tour form had been affected. “I have to save energy for the month of July,” he said. He also told the race’s organising newspaper he would almost certainly be riding in 2005, quashing rumours of his impending retirement. Mayo said in the post-prologue press conference he still had more form to come in spite of indications he is already at his best based on a string of victories over the past month. “I have opted for a more gradual progression this year, and I have still not reached my peak yet,” he said. “The most important thing is that I am mentally fresher. I think that is an excellent situation with the Tour in mind.” Hamilton admitted he had done the prologue full on apart from the final drop into the finish “where without doubt I was too careful.” Despite missing out on victory by less than a second, Hamilton was pleased with the way the prologue had gone for his Phonak team, as they placed five riders in the first eight overall. Phonak’s eight-rider Dauphin team are all set to start the Tour de France, with the ninth spot going to either Martin Elmiger or Alex Zlle. “Tyler has tried to convince Alex to ride on several occasions,” said Phonak team manager Urs Freuler. “He would like him to be there for the team time trial, but the performance of the boys in today’s prologue will have reassured him. Even without Alex this will be a competitive team.” Prologue, Megve 1 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 5.4km in 7.52 (41.19kph) 2 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 0.01 3 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 4 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak 0.02 5 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step 0.06 6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Phonak 7 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Phonak 0.08 8 Jos Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak 9 Laurent Lefvre (Fra) Brioches La Boulangre 0.10 10 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 0.11 11 David Millar (GB) Cofidis 0.12