GRENOBLE, France -- Spain's Iban Mayo won
the eight-day Dauphine Libere cycle race on Sunday, asserting
himself as one of Lance Armstrong's main rivals next month in
the Tour de France.
The Basque rider, leader of the Euskaltel team, beat another
Tour de France favorite, American Tyler Hamilton, by 36 seconds
while Spain's Oscar Sevilla was third, 1:03 adrift.
Armstrong, who had won the event the past two years,
finished in fourth place, two minutes behind Mayo.
The race was in reality decided on Thursday in a 21.6-km
individual time trial at the Mont Ventoux in which the five-time Tour de France winner was unable to match Mayo's pace.
"It was an interesting week," Armstrong said. "I was not as super as I would have wished. It was a tough week too, with super riders like Mayo or Tyler Hamilton.
"I still must improve. But I had no crash, no problem,
overall that's good," he added.
Armstrong, who will be bidding for a record sixth Tour de
France victory next month, crashed last year when he beat Mayo
into second place.
His preparations this year have been hampered by stomach
"There will be no more races [before the Tour]. The Tour is
in three weeks, I'm going to train, to focus on my health, maybe
lose a little kilo," he said.
Mayo refused to draw conclusions from his victory as regards
"I love this race. I won a stage last year and this year.
It's a great win but my best victory is still my stage win at
l'Alpe d'Huez on the Tour last year.
"The Tour is a different race, with different riders and
different ambitions," said Mayo, who finished sixth in last
The last 200-km mountain stage around Grenoble was won by
Australian Stuart O'Grady, who broke away with France's Sandy
Casar and five other riders almost from the start.
O'Grady, who also won the fifth stage, finished on his own
in Grenoble with Casar a few seconds behind.
"It's a great week for me and I thank the whole Cofidis
team," said the Australian, who will be one of the favorites
for the points classification green jersey on the Tour.
The main bunch, with all the favorites, had decided to take
it easy on a sunny Sunday in the Alps and let the breakaways
have their day.