By Hedwig Kröner in Mende
One rider which a lot of cycling observers had definitely counted on to defy Lance Armstrong on his quest for a seventh Tour de France Yellow jersey was the former US Postal rider Roberto Heras. But the Spaniard, now riding for Liberty Seguros under the watchful eye of Manolo Saiz, lost his bid for a 2005 podium placing by far, as he hasn't shown the same abilities on the climbs as in previous years.
"I don't know, I really don't," he said, shaking his head, when Cyclingnews asked him at the start of stage 17 whether he had an explanation for his poor performance this year. "Armstrong has been as strong as ever, he continues his reign. The other GC contenders also, so what we saw this year has been the repetition of previous years."
But in the last few years, Heras had been the super-domestique for the American in the mountains, so why has he not been able to live up to his potential again? - was the next logical question, but Heras did not give an explanation. "I haven't been able to do anything in this Tour," he said. "I didn't have anything going my way. But it wasn't the overall speed either. Sure, in the first week, it was faster than usual, but in the mountains it's the same as it's been previously. So I don't know," he shrugged again.