<
>

Mayo shelled off the pace by Stage 3

7/20/2004

VILLARD-DE-LANS, France -- Iban Mayo bid
farewell to his disappointing Tour de France on Tuesday, pulling
out before the start of the gruelling 112-mile 15th stage
between Valreas and Villard-de-Lans in the Alps.

"We had a meeting with Iban, team director Julian Gorospe
and myself this morning," said Euskaltel team manager Miguel
Madariaga.

"Iban said he had no strength left and that he wouldn't be
able to finish the stage anyway. We decided it was just as well
for him not to start at all."

At the start of the Tour, Mayo had been considered a primary rival of five-time winner Lance
Armstrong, who won Stage 15 on Tuesday afternoon in a sprint with Jan Ullrich for the finish line. Armstrong will now wear the yellow jersey as the leader in the general classification.

The Spaniard's Tour hopes, however, took a major blow as early as
the third stage when he was involved in a pile-up that resulted
in a gash to his left thigh and cost him almost four minutes.

Armstong, on course to win a record sixth Tour, then crushed
Mayo by a massive 37 minutes and 40 seconds when the American
won the 13th stage in the Pyrenees.

Mayo, who won the eight-day Dauphine Libere in June, was in 49th place overall, trailing former leader Thomas
Voeckler by 45 minutes.

The 27-year-old gave up the day before a 15.5-km time trial
to l'Alpe d'Huez, where he was expected to do well.

Mayo, who was sixth overall last year, won the l'Alpe d'Huez
stage last year and beat Armstrong in a similar time trial at
the Mont Ventoux on the Dauphine Libere.

"We don't know what's wrong. Maybe he's suffering from a
virus," Madariaga said.

Seen as main challengers to Armstrong's U.S. Postal team in
the mountains, the Euskaltel team has struggled on this Tour.

Before the prologue, they lost Gorka Gonzalez, who was
declared unfit to start after blood tests. Mayo and his teammates
then lost vital time after the third-stage crash.

His teammate and compatriot Haimar Zubeldia, who was fifth
last year and also expected to do well this year, abandoned the
race in the Pyrenees.