By Andrew Hood
Mayo eyes return to glory
Iban Mayo – the once-mighty Basque who seemed to have Lance Armstrong in his sights for two years – is hoping for a return to form in 2006 after an abysmal season last year.
In 2005, the dashing Euskaltel-Euskadi rider was a shadow of his former self that saw him surge to a stage victory up Alpe d’Huez in the 2003 Tour de France and later toppled Armstrong en route to the 2004 Dauphine Libere win.
But he later abandoned the 2004 Tour in humiliation and limped through the 2005 campaign with poor form and injury, never to rediscover his spark in a frustrating season.
Speaking to Spanish journalists at the team’s official presentation this week in Spain’s Basque Country, Mayo sounded optimistic that a turn-around is imminent.
“I’m not setting an concrete goals, I just want to return to what I once was,” he told the Spanish daily MARCA. “My intention is regain my form as soon as possible, to get to a good level and be competitive by April or May.”
Mayo will make his season debut at the Tour of Murcia and likely race Tirreno-Adriatico and Criterium International ahead of the Tour of the Basque Country in early April. Later, the team will decide whether he’ll race the Giro d’Italia, the Tour or perhaps both.
He’s been working with therapists on new stretching routines to help keep his back pain-free, caused by overloading one leg dating back to a tragic car accident in the 1990s.
As for his immediate past, Mayo is more content to look forward than to dwell on the unpleasant memories of the last 18 months.
“It’s not easy to forget a season as bad as the one I had, but during the winter I tried to think in the present to prepare myself for the future,” he explained. “The truth is that I have no explication about what happened in 2005. I started tranquil and saved myself for the Tour, but later I had problems with my knee, then my back. I could never manage to feel very good. Perhaps I made an error in my preparation, but there’s nothing you can do about that now.”
Giunti joins Naturino-Sapore di Mare
Massimo Giunti is the latest rider to join Naturino-Sapore di Mare for the 2006 season. The former Fassa Bortolo rider penned a one-year deal to join the Italian continental team, Tutto Bici reported. Giunti, 31, has been a pro since 1998, but has yet to win a professional race. He finished third last year in the Italian national championships.
Jiménez statue goes up
Neighbors of fallen Spanish star José María Jiménez erected a statue in his hometown of El Barraco to mark the second-year anniversary of the death of “El Chaba.”
Jiménez died of a heart attack in December 2003 after a long bout of depression. The statue will honor Jiménez’ sporting legacy, which included 28 career victories, three times King of the Mountains in the Vuelta a Espana and third overall in the 1998 Vuelta.
World’s sites named
The UCI Management Committee, meeting in Kleve, Germany, has awarded the following World Championships:
2007 Juniors World ChampionshipsAguascalientes (MEX)
2008 Juniors World ChampionshipsCape Town (RSA)
2008 Track World ChampionshipsManchester (GBR)
2008 MTB Marathon World ChampionshipsVillabassa (ITA)
2007-2009 Track Masters World ChampionshipsSydney (AUS)
2007-2009 Cyclo-Cross Masters World ChampionshipsMol (BEL)