By Martin Hardie
A question on many lips of late has been - what is Iban Mayo doing? With his non-start in Alcobendas, the mystery has been heightened, as it was here last year that he commenced an incredible month with successive victories in Alcobendas and Asturias. Those wins seemed a little tinged with anger as Mayo was under orders at times, such as in Asturias, not to go for the wins but to ride for others. Mayo backed up in June with his win in the Dauphiné, and in so doing achieved an incredible landmark in cycling, something which seems to have been lost if the dust of his Tour failures. That landmark of course was the setting of a new record for the climb of Mont Ventoux at 55'51.49. With all the Mayo mystery, the Euskadi team, stretched to the limit with commitment right now, came to Alcobendas to ride for David Herrero.
David Herrero is a dogged Bilbaino, a quiet but tough fighter. Last year he was an Euskaltel refugee, cast aside by Madariaga and co. in the wake of their 2003 Tour success, he found himself looking for a new home. He like a few other of his compatriots found one in the Paternina-Costa de Almeria squad. Costa de Almeria at times looked more like Costa Bizkaia with its ranks swelling with a string of Euskaltel refugees. And if you cast your mind back to last year's Vuelta, three 'little' teams made the race day after day - Kelme, Cafes Baque and Paternina. Herrero made the most of the opportunity of being cast aside by Euskaltel, often attacking in the closing part of a race and in the process he took some good wins: one of the notable was his stage win in Asturias where he jumped away from the gallopers on the run into the line.
On Sunday in Alcobendas, he did it again. And in some ways his win, although characteristic of his style, recalled the beginning of Mayo's wonderful month of May. Last year Mayo jumped away from a complete peloton, within the final kilometre to surge too the line alone. Yesterday, Herrero did the same, accompanied for a while by Luis Perez of Cofidis, who still attacks in vain in search of his first pro victory.
An emotional Herrero told Cyclingnews via our direct orange line that, "I attacked with Luis Perez. With 500 meters to go I saw that the gap wasn't great and that the peloton was going to come over us. Phonak were coming en masse. So I decided to sit behind Perez and then give it everything. I am very happy, it is the first win of the season and it is very important for all of us.
"I would like to make two very special dedications...On one side, I dedicate this win to all my teammates, because we have confidence in our possibilities and we are all sure that things are going to turn out well for us this year. On the other side I want to dedicate the win to the directors and staff of the team, especially Miguel Madariaga. He turned around and put his trust in me and he has helped me a lot. For me it is something that I can be very proud of, that is to return to this team, and for this I owe a debt to Miguel."
Team director, Julian Gorospe showed his satisfaction with Herrero's win: "We have made the turn around, we have got our first win of the year. Everyone thought it was going to be a sprint finish, but...we intended to launch Herrero, and I think that this ploy unbalanced the sprinter's teams. David was valiant, he attacked, and he kept up a tiny gap right until the finish. Last year we got our second win of the season here, this year our first. Our hope is to continue ascending".
Regarding the Mayo mystery our direct orange line tells us that a certain quiet country boy is planning to take part in the Volta Catalunya and the Euskal Bizikleta, and here he intends to show some progression. But he will likely not seek to defend his Dauphiné title. Mayo is at the moment "tranquilo", training well and just doing the miles, so to speak. Anyone who knows him also knows that he can't resist competition, he has the mind of a winner and seeks to win whenever he races. This year he has decided to take things easier during the first half of the season with one objective only: to arrive at the Tour in optimum condition. And it is here the Orange boys hope to really show the meaning of Gorospe's hope to continue ascending.