Mancebo and Diablo. A climb too far.

Mancebo at San Francisco start. photo twisted spoke.

Paco Watch final edition.

Francisco Mancebo wanted to go home to Spain via Mount Diablo in California. At age 37, it was really his last shot to race closer to home, his wife and young kids.

A top five overall in the Tour of California or perhaps a win on the summit finish of Diablo might have been his ticket to a contract back in Europe.

It’s been a long and tangled road for the Spanish climber, from Banesto to AG2R to Relax-GAM to the folly of Rock Racing, then RealCyclist.com finally 5 Hour Energy. He’s a long way from his second overall in the 2004 Vueltra and a fourth in the 2005 Tour de France.

He has labored here in the United States in races like the Tuscon Bicycle Classic, the San Dimas Stage Race and Tour of the Battenkill. Great races but not exactly the bright lights of Le Tour or even San Sebastian.

In late March this season, he returned to Spain for the Vuelta a Castilla y León. Talk about homesickness. He put in a tremendous ride to finish on the podium and it must have hurt to leave the country again for North America.

Mancebo still has 20 bags of leftover blood from Operacion Puerto and plenty of unanswered questions. He has never addressed his past except to point out that that it is past and he’d like to focus on the future. That works as chronology but even a fake apology and admission would have shut the Puerto door years ago.

To use the classic cycling cliche, Mancebo was hoping his legs would do the talking, the legs saying “I’d like to ride in Europe to close out my career.”

He rode with aggression in the first two stages down in the Southern California desert but missed the defining moment of the race on the split in stage five to Avila Beach. Nobody could close the gap when RadioShack and BMC gave a demo in WorldTour tactics.

Diablo was he last chance.

Mancebo waited until Jens Voigt attacked, then bridged up and ripped past. Then he caught the two front-runners David De la Cruz (NetApp-Endura) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and dropped them for the open road ahead. He had Diablo all to himself.

Mancebo had his shot at Spain. He gave it everything he had but the relentless pace of a strong BMC squad and two young guns shut him down. Janier Acevedo (Jamis) and Leopold König (NetApp-Endura) went past and the peloton said no.

5 Hour Energy DS Frankie Andreu said that Mancebo did everything possible to win on Diablo.”He went for it. You’re going up against strong guys like Mathias Frank and Tejey and Acevedo but he gave it a shot to go up the road,” said Andreu. “You need to risk everything to win races and I don’t think he lost too much, his GC time will probably stay the same.”

Maybe Mancebo also lost his shot at heading home.

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