Another team eagerly awaiting the Tour's entry into the mountains of the French/Spanish border is Euskaltel-Euskadi. For the de facto national pro team of the Basque Country, the Pyrenean stages are a homecoming welcomed by vast hordes of orange-clad fans. The pressure will be on to put on a good show, and team manager Julien Gorospe believes his man Iban Mayo is ready. Mayo won the mountainous sixth stage of the Dauphiné Libéré in June, a win that boosted his confidence in the run-up to the Tour.
"It was very important for [Mayo] to win a stage in the Dauphiné Libéré," Gorospe told reporters before yesterday's stage of the Tour. "He is another rider now."
Mayo was tipped as a potential Tour winner when he battled Lance Armstrong in the mountains in the 2003 Tour and won the 2004 Dauphiné, but his team's weakness in the team time trial and his own inconsistent form has kept him off the podium. This year there is no team time trial and Gorospe said that Mayo, "went through the first week without any problem and is physically okay."
However, even if Mayo shows some of his former brilliance in the mountains, he will struggle to make up his current 6:24 deficit. But Gorospe says he might yet be a contender. "If he wins a stage, he will make a jump in the overall classification. We will have to see day by day how things go," he said.
Gorospe confirmed that the team's home town advantage in the Pyrenees would likely be decisive. "All Basques will be there," he said. "And the crowd is very important if you want to win a stage."