VeloVeritas got an opportunity to chat with Iban Mayo at the Saunier Duval team launch in Estepona in January this year. It’s interesting to publish it now, on the eve of the Tour after Iban won a stage of the Giro.
It was after 10.00pm when I finally got time with Iban. He was patient and polite; but he doesn’t speak French, English or Italian – just Spanish (or rather Castille, as the Basques would have it), and Basque, naturally.
You were seven years with Euskaltel, what’s different at Saunier?
“Well, you have to ride the bike just the same and it hurts just the same! Seriously, Euskaltel is a regional team, in fact to the people in the Basque country it’s the national team.
“Every rider comes from the Basque country so there are no fresh ideas coming in to the squad but you are always under the spotlight… I was always the centre of attention and that’s not something I particularly enjoy.
“Here at Saunier there are nine different nations represented in the team, it’s very cosmopolitan and I’m just another rider in the team, not necessarily the centre of attraction — that concept I find much more comfortable. I really just wanted a change, to do things differently after so many years of the same things.”
Has there been any adverse reaction to your move among Basque fans?
“A little, but my true fans knew that I had to make the move – I needed a fresh start, fresh ideas – and they are glad that I am happy with my new team.”
In 2003 and 2004 you scored 8 wins each year, but none in 2005, why?
“It was because of physical problems, I had to have a knee operation then I had troubles with my shoulder — not a good year.”
But last year you were back to good form…
“Yes, but only in shorter races, I recovered completely from my physical problems but I lost a lot of my stamina with being off the bike, that is why this spring I want to work hard on that particular aspect of my fitness.”
What are your plans for 2007?
“As I said, I want to work hard in the spring; my first commitment is to assist Gilberto Simoni in the Giro in May. I want to be in my best form between the months of May and July.”
For the Tour?
“No, I’m not saying that, there are other races that I want to ride and win, but we will see how things are going after the Giro.”
You have always ridden a good Dauphine, is it on the programme?
“The Dauphine is a race that I like; it just suits me, I like the particular mountain climbs that it involves but I won’t be riding it this year because it starts too soon after the Giro finishes.”
Could there be problems over team leadership with Gilberto?
“Certainly not, I will be riding the Giro to help Gilberto and the plan is that he will probably ride the Tour in support of me.”
Are you an equipment fan?
“Not really, but the Scott bikes are very good and the new SRAM groupset is good too, it works well. I’m just not into all that, as long as it does what it’s supposed to do.”
Having travelled among the pragmatic people of the Pays Basque, why doesn’t that last remark surprise us?
VeloVeritas would like to thank Iban for his time, and wishes him every success in the Tour.