Tour-Exhausted Mayo throws in the towel

Updated: July 20, 2004, 6:08 AM ET

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By Francois Thomazeau

VALREAS, France, July 20 - Spain's exhausted Iban Mayo pulled out of the Tour de France before the start of the gruelling 15th stage on Tuesday.

"We knew he wouldn't finish the stage today, so we decided it was better for him not to start," said Euskaltel general manager Miguel Madariaga.

He added that Mayo, a specialist climber and considered as one of Lance Armstrong's main rivals before the start of the Tour, had "no strength left" and said he could be suffering from a virus.

Tuesday's 180.5km run between Valreas and Villard-de-Lans sees the peloton tackle the first stage in the Alps.

Mayo had beaten Armstrong to win the eight-day Dauphine Libere event in June but his Tour hopes took a major blow as early as the third stage when he was involved in a pile-up which cost him almost four minutes.

Armstrong, on course to win a record sixth Tour de France, then crushed him by a massive 37 minutes and 40 seconds when the American won the 13th stage.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index