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2001 Vuelta

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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

An interview with Iban Mayo

The great orange hope of the Basque Country

[This interview is available in both English and Spanish. The English version follows, with the Spanish words here - Ed]

Iban Mayo
Photo: © AFP

Despite Julian Gorospe signalling that he was the leader of the team, Iban has not assumed that role. The lad from Igorre (Bizkaia, Euskadi) aims to ride a good Vuelta in order to forget a bad year due in part to injury, but he has not yet focussed on concrete objectives. Eloi Corres of equipoeuskadi.com and Martin Hardie managed to catch up with the great orange hope, Iban Mayo a few days before the start of the Vuelta of neighbouring Spain. This is what he had to say.

Cyclingnews: We started talking about the season. How do you rate your season up to the moment? Maybe a little affected by your injuries?

Iban Mayo: Yes, at the start I had a problem with a knee injury, but later I recovered enough to ride the Tour, where I didn't go as well as I had hoped. From then I haven't competed, which is positive because it gives you a desire for the bike at the end of the season. To have ridden two grand tours is a lot, and if you don't have a break you become very tired at the end of the season. To the Vuelta I come with an appetite for the bike and with a feeling of hope and excitement.

CN: Do you think that your injuries have left you a little behind, as you couldn't return to the top this year? Do you consider the Vuelta an important test for you in this sense?

IM: Well, yes, during this year I have had little form because of the injuries. You never know what it could have been if I had not been injured, but in any case I could ride the tour. I will try to do a good Vuelta, I go with much desire to do it well.

Bad weather? No problemo.
Photo: © AFP

CN: Within the Euskadi team do you take the Vuelta as an opportunity to save the season?

IM: In a certain way, yes. We may have a little pressure to do well, now that we did not do as well in the Tour as we hoped. We will have to improve and we will have to endeavour to take some stages.

CN: What do you think has caused the team not to produce so good a year?

IM: Well, each year you try and exceed the level you have achieved the year before, and people become a little used to you continuing to exceed the level you have previously achieved. But all years are not equal, and all the teams have bad years. Perhaps this year is not finished for us; we are trying to make it as good as possible. The other [years] have been better - in this way it's not important.

CN: Which are your personal objectives in this edition of the Vuelta? Can we hope to see you high in the general, perhaps on the podium?

IM: The objectives are to be at the front in the decisive stages. Like the team, the objective is that I take a stage. Also, one thing leads to the other, if you are at the front you have more options to fight for the victories. About being on the podium, I feel that there are many thinking of this. The level is high and I feel it is impossible for me.

CN: Are you going to assume the role of leader of the team?

IM: No, I don't think so at all. In our team they are various riders and each one has his day and his opportunities to be at the front. No one [from our team] goes to win the Vuelta; no one will have that job from the start.

CN: How do you see your teamamtes?

IM: Well, I think we have a better team than the Tour. The people are good with a lot of expectation. We are well, speaking of those who could not ride the Tour for different reasons and those of us that could. I believe that the team for the Vuelta is better than it was at the Tour - also we have more of an appetite.

Likes tough climbs
Photo: © AFP

CN: Speaking of the route of this Vuelta, what do you think of it?

IM: It has a lot of mountains. Only the climbs of el Angliru or La Covatilla are climbs that are very decisive. The route clearly benefits the climbers; the time triallers will find it very difficult.

CN: The Vuelta starts with a team time trial. Do you a believe this is an significant handicap for Euskaltel?

IM: Well, it is not our strength, but we will try to lose as little time as we can. The chrono is not long and we will go with hope. We have prepared for it well and we hope that we will come out of it better than we did in the Tour.

CN: In the first week there are two high finishes, how can they affect the development of the race?

IM: In these finishes, as much in Sierra Nevada as in La Panadera, you will see who is going to dispute this race and who is not. It will provide the first opportunity for riders to be discarded, to be the first selection and make the first important differences.

CN: This year the race returns to climb el Angliru; what's your opinion of this climb?

IM: We have seen and climbed this mountain - the first half on the bike and the second in the car. I feel it is a barbarity, but it marks the race. It is a very tough ascent, and an exaggerated climb.

CN: What do you feel about the decision to fence the climb from the lower slopes to stop the people pushing and helping the riders?

Look Mama - no hands!
Photo: © AFP

IM: Well, to me it doesn't seem that bad that they push the cyclists. The top riders no, because that could affect the result - but from the top 10 to 15 down I feel its OK. You have to take into account that if they push you it is because you are going very bad, and to push the riders that are in the second half of the peloton is OK with me.

CN: Finally, whom do you see as the favourite for the race?

IM: For me, Beloki. After his second place in the Tour, he comes with much desire to do well. After him I think that Simoni could play a good part, he is a great climber. And also the home riders; Sevilla, Heras, Botero and a few other Spanish, like Mercado and Mancebo.

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