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Tour de France News for May 10, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Bruyneel: No reason to worry

After a successful outing at the Tour de Georgia in the United States last Month, US Postal Service-Berry Floor director Johan Bruyneel is confident as usual as the Tour de France comes into view this season. Team leader and five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong walked away from Georgia with two stage wins and the overall title, and will return to Europe for two more stage race appearances before his quest for an unprecedented sixth Tour title in July.

In a Marca interview, Bruyneel commented on Armstrong's current condition, and that of his rivals, including the American's closest rival to date, Jan Ullrich. To many critics, Ullrich appears far from his best form after a quiet spring at the back of the peloton. Bruyneel and Armstrong aren't likely to underestimate the T-Mobile leader, however, given his track record of never finishing below second place at the Tour.

"What we see now doesn't mean much," Bruyneel said of Ullrich's poor spring results. "We don't doubt that he'll be good at the Tour. Everyone is going to arrive in peak form for the Tour, though Beloki is a bit more of an unknown since his crash last year.

"Lance's form is good, though not super, and the team too, so we don't have any reason to be worried," he added.

Bruyneel expressed his satisfaction with the team's performance in Georgia, and the race in general, which offered a rare opportunity for US Postal to field its top riders on home soil.

"I found that race to be a very pleasant surprise, first because of the difficulty, but also because of the level of competition," he said. "Lance needed to race there, because he hadn't done a stage race in his own country since 1998. Now, leading up to the Tour, we'll do the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon (formerly Midi Libre) and then the Dauphiné Libéré."

Also included in the final Tour preparations will be continued inspections of the key mountain stages in France, though some of the reconnaissance may come after the Dauphiné in June. Armstrong himself has commented recently that he hopes to climb the Alpe d'Huez at least ten times in preparation for the crucial uphill time trial on the Alpe in this year's Tour.

Mayo on target

Popular Basque rider Iban Mayo, leader of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team for the Tour de France, took his turn to show that his condition is improving steadily in the months before July's big test. Mayo won the first two stages and the overall title at the Clásica Alcobendas, Spain's answer to the mini-stage race format of the Critérium International.

"I found myself going well in each stage and I felt strong, so I decided to attack," Mayo told Marca. "I don't think it's much of a threat to my rivals because there's still a lot of time before the Tour. The important thing for me is not to have any problems and to keep improving for the biggest objective of my year, which is France."

Although he expressed some reservation after his stage 1 win, noting the short but demanding time trial to come the next day, Mayo still managed to place second in the test against the clock behind Liberty Seguros' Luis Sanchez. He took the final victory by a margin of two minutes ahead of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme's Eladio Jimenez and Cofidis' David Moncoutié.

Mayo adds himself to the list of likely Tour protagonists steadily riding into top form, alongside Tour de Romandie winner Tyler Hamilton (Phonak) and Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), who has had a less spectacular season thus far than in 2003 but nonetheless has taken several victories and finished with the leaders in the major spring outings.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)

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