Iban Mayo at the 2003 Vuelta. Courtesy Unipublic.
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Iban Mayo continues his preparation for the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, the Tour of
the Basque Country, which he won last year, and which starts Monday. With
his form lacking, the man from Igorre has chosen not to race for final victory
and instead bets on his Euskaltel-Euskadi teammates, David Etxebarria and Samuel
Sánchez, for whom he is willing to work. The inauguration of "Iban Mayo
Lagunartea" (cycling fan club) yesterday in Igorre is another reason more to try
to achieve more successes for his Basque fans.
How have you felt in the races you have disputed up to now?
This year I began with fewer kilometers than last year, and I was a lot of
time without riding, and it's always difficult at the beginning. So far I have
ridden the Classic Almería, the Vuelta a Murcia and Catalan Setmana. In Murcia I
was calm and so to speak, just another number in the peloton. I was not bad,
although in the day to day I noticed the fatigue. I ended up well. In Setmana I
was already better, feeling more like I should.
One of your objectives in 2004 is to improve in the time trials. In the
Tour of Murcia you did your first, what conclusions did you have?
I finished very happy. I was not very much in form and I made 11th, 19
seconds from Armstrong. That is good, I liked it and for that reason in Setmana
I wanted to prove something in the time trial. In Basque Country I don't know if
it will be one I will be able to do well since it usually goes up and down.
And in the mountain stages Catalan Setmana, how were you?
I was doing well to be in the top ten, I tolerated it but it does not do to
just be in front. I lacked a little still to dispute the victory.
In the meantime you have competed little but have done some intense
training, is this not so?
Yes, the truth is that I am training well, building a good base to arrive
well in July. After so many months without competing and training I noticed that
I had to begin again and recover. For that reason, I decided to force myself so
that the body gets used to the beatings and the suffering.
Good, with that preparation, you go to the Tour of the Basque Country with
This year I am riding because I won last year, otherwise, I don't know if it
would be otherwise. The case is that it is at home, it always motivates me and
our team always comes out with the intention of doing well. I didn't have any
big things until Basque Country. Last year I won and this year we are required
to be there because it is a home race. The whole team goes to for all. The idea
of the team is to try to win, not me, because I am not as I was last year. I
know that there are other riders like Samuel or David that are doing well and
better than me. They are the trump cards of the team for Basque Country.
What opinion do you have of the course?
I don't know the stages very well, I have looked at them. It is a little like
every year, with the mountain and the metas. It is a beautiful tour, difficult
to control and the climate can be an important factor. If it is like last year
it will rain and that can tip the scale in favor of some and against others. The
first stage is usually nervous and I imagine that a small group will arrive. The
second stage is hard with nine climbs. The third day is to Gasteiz and it could
be the calmest. The fourth, with the ascent to Azpiroz that I don't know, can
also be a factor. It won't end in one or two alone, but ten, and it will be
decided mainly among the favorites.
Who does you think are the rivals of the Euskaltel-Euskadi?
Team CSC is very strong, having won Criterium International and Paris-Nice.
They all ride very well and anyone can shine. Then there's Vinokourov, Menchov,
Rebellin, Boogerd and Hamilton. The possibilities are wide with fifteen or twenty favorites.
And do you believe that you can be in that group of favorites?
I like the race, but I have not prepared for it, so I will help my teammates,
that will be my task. To win a stage would be great.
Do you already have a definite calendar starting with the Tour of the
Vuelta a Aragón or the classics, Fleche Wallone or Liege - that is not very
clear. These are races that I like and I wouldn't skip riding them. The doubt is
whether to do last year's calendar, more or less, since I am not in the same
form. My calendar is not defined, it could be Romandy, then Alcobenda, Asturias,
Euskal Bizikleta or Volta Catalunya and the Dauphiné.
What do you think of the "Iban Mayo Lagunartea"?
It is beautiful. It is a thrill to have friends and people that support you
to go to the Tour, and there are more in your town. I appreciate that people
honor me this way me and I hope that it continues for a long time, it's a nice
group. They are friends, people with whom I ride, fans, and I hope this
continues after I have left cycling. For that reason I am very happy because
they are people who love cycling. I have spent my whole life with them riding,
and that they follow you in that way, with a club, it is beautiful.