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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Iban Mayo
MAYO FACTFILE
Iban Mayo
DOB: 19/8/1977
Nationality: Spanish
Best Tour: 2003 - sixth place
If you'd asked anyone in the Basque region a year ago who could stop Lance Armstrong, they were almost entirely unanimous in their answer - Iban Mayo.

He was given a resounding vote of confidence and was hotly tipped to dominate the mountains, finally causing Armstrong to crack.

What followed was one of the more feable bids to win the race as Mayo retired on stage 15.

He was devoid of all energy and a virus was blamed for his exit.

In the ensuing inquest, there were accusations he had peaked too early in the season, most notably at the Dauphine Libere.

That race - seen as one of the major Tour warm-ups - saw him dominate Armstrong. But by July and the Tour de France start, he seemed spent.

Time and again he tried to quit only to be put back on his bike and coaxed up another hill. Following continual pleas, his team eventually caved him and let him retire from the race.

This time around, he has done things a lot more quietly and must have learned from the mistakes of the past.

There is no doubting he is a superb climber - in terms of natural talent quite possibly the best in the peloton.

On the 2003 Tour he showed just that as he danced his way up some of the toughest mountains to sixth overall.

Arguably his best-ever day on a bike came at the summit of Alpe d'Huez as he blitzed all those alongside him in that same year.

To challenge for the overall win, he needs to improve his time trialling - the weakest part of his game.


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