In last year's Dauphiné Libéré, Iban Mayo stormed to victory in the time trial up Mont Ventoux and went on to win the overall. That performance had some tipping Mayo as a serious threat for the Tour de France. After all, Lance Armstrong dominated the 2002 Dauphiné and went on to demolish all opposition in that year's Tour.
But Armstrong himself says it's not quite that simple. "You often see riders do well in the Dauphiné Libéré and a month later they are not so strong," he said after the Ventoux stage. "I have learned not to be impatient. It was difficult today but the real test is a month away and I stay on schedule. I'm trying to gain some condition here, some race rhythm and to focus on the big objective. Everybody is calm and collected and we are ready."
Armstrong looked unusually vulnerable in last year's Dauphiné, but went on to make winning a sixth Tour de France look easy. His Discovery Channel directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel said at the time that the plan was for Armstrong and the team to ride into form in the first week of the Tour and peak when the race hit the mountains. A similar strategy may be on the cards for the 2005 Tour.
"Lance knows that the Ventoux is not his thing. He has had a lot of hard times here in the past," said Bruyneel about the stage four finish. "But the time trial and today's climb were two satisfactory tests. Lance is close to his best. He may not be 100 percent but not far."
Nevertheless, Armstrong concedes there's still work to do. "I would not say it was great, I would not even say it was good. I wasn't good enough today, I suffered a lot and I'm a little bit disappointed. Maybe I was still a little bit heavy for a climb like that by a few pounds," he said.