are sometimes smooth and silky, and other times tired and tight.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hold the Mayo

Image Hosted by

It’s difficult to believe that six years have passed since Iban Mayo put his name on the map, so to speak. On the 20th virage of Alpe d’Huez, to be specific. Moments after an early attack by Joseba Beloki was reeled in by Lance Armstrong, Mayo stormed off on his own, with a little over 7 kms to go to the top of Alpe d’Huez, winning by 1’45”. After that he had the hopes and aspirations of Basque cycling fans planted firmly on his narrow shoulders.

I still remember how excited a friend of mine from San Sebastian was, with his talk of the next Basque Tour winner. I can also remember how he made lycra shoe covers, orange kits, and Orbeas seem cool.

Image Hosted by

image courtesy Christian Gianti

After shattering the record for ascending the Ventoux the month before, Mayo started the 2004 Tour as a clear threat to Armstrong. That threat never made it past the third stage, where Mayo crashed on the cobbles of northern France, and then proceeded to lose almost 4' to the favorites, and another 1’30” to Armstrong in the Team Time Trial the following day.

What was to be a coronation in the Pyrenees, with thousands upon thousands of Orange clad Basque fans lining the road, turned out to be a wash, with Mayo attempting to abandon on the second day in the mountains, only to be talked out of it. My friend, who was one of those thousands, had to solace himself in watching his compatriots jeer Armstrong and Basso, as he waiting for Mayo to ride by over half an hour later.

After the 2004 Tour, Mayo floundered, riding an anonymous Tour in 2005, to finish 60th overall. The following year, he hinted at a comeback when he won a stage at Dauphiné Libéré, during his build up for the Tour. That brief spark of his past genius failed to materialize at the Tour. Once again, he rode anonymously. The only memorable moment being the footage of his attempt abandon discretely. Thanks to a cameraman, who would ignore Mayo’s pleas to leave him alone, he couldn’t achieve that goal.

By the end of the year, Mayo would end his six year long association with Euskatel Euskadi, opting go to Saunier Duval-Prodir and try yet another comeback. Things seem to improve. Perhaps it was the change of venue. Perhaps it was the fact that his fiend, and mentor, Joxean Fernández Maxtin was part of the organization. In his year at Saunier Duval, Mayo would win a stage at the Giro, then follow it up with a solid, if unspectacular 16th place in the Tour.

Image Hosted by

Whatever hopes he had of building on his comeback were put to the wayside by a positive test for EPO. When the B sample resulted in an inconclusive result, the UCI had the B sample re-tested (to get their desired result?). To some (many?) it appeared that the UCI had a vendetta.

Mayo received a two year ban, which ended this summer. On Sunday, Mayo announced in the Spanish paper El Correo that there would be no more comebacks. Pity.

Agur Iban, and Gora, Gora, Gora.


Salad Cream said...

Shame also when you think back to his car crash, return from this, a guy who was told he might not even walk again. We will miss that orange kit and those odd pointy toes, a legacy of the crash damage and learning to pedal again.

Shaver said...


Dan Coyle's study on Mayo, in LA's War, was one of the better parts of the book.