By Martin Hardie in Spain
Iban Mayo seems to think he learned a lesson last year, and unlike 2004 to date, we have seen nothing of him at the front of the peloton. In Catalunya's fourth stage to Andorra's ski station at Pal, he finished inconspicuously by himself, 3'27 behind stage winner Leonardo Piepoli. Mayo's May of 2005 has nothing to compare with that of 2004. There is no impressive string of victories and one is left wondering if he has lost it, or is simply biding his time.
The watchword of Mayo 2005 is "easy", as in take it easy in preparing himself for July's French Tour. "I have been training a lot, base miles, with rides of six or more hours. I am happy with the work I have done to date," he says.
Mayo insists that last year he "obtained some great results in May and June, but maybe I went a little over the top and then later in the Tour what happened, happened, the fall, the virus. This year we have a plan that sees me peaking in July, right for the Tour."
Catalunya marks "the final phase of my preparation, and I am very relaxed, much more so than last year. It is not important to me this year if I get to the Tour without a victory to my name. Last year, my pre-Tour wins cost me a fair bit. I didn't want to approach this season like that. On top of that, I had problems with my knee and the flu I caught. So this year, my program is to peak later than I did last year."
So can we read anything into Mayo's climb to Andorra this week? "No way, you won't see me at the front in the Volta. For me, it is another race to use as training. I have been doing foundation work, lots of base miles in the saddle and I haven't been doing a lot of intensity work. I will do this in June."
"I am still working on getting myself down to race weight, I put more than normal on last winter, probably because my season ended in July. At the moment, I am still a few of kilos above what I am usually when I have form [61 kg]."
Will we see Mayo out and about competitively between now and July? "Maybe I will do the Tour of Switzerland, the GP Llodio and the Euskal Bizikleta. Let's see what happens."
A large part of the Plan Mayo is not to expose himself to the excessive pressure he was subjected to before last year's Tour. Pressure that saw him close himself off from the press, train solo with his Walkman and being mobbed at the local supermarket by screaming girls. "I am going much easier, much more relaxed, because the objective is the Tour, not Switzerland or Catalunya. Last year, generated an excessive amount of pressure. And things went bad. This is why I am not obsessing about winning before the Tour. It's just not important to me to win prior to the Tour; I just want to get their relaxed and in full form."
Thanks to Unai Larrea of DEIA for assistance with this story.