Mancebo back in the day. Tour of California 2012. photo twisted spoke
The man in the wilderness: Francisco Mancebo.
Once a top Tour de France contender back in the dark doping days, the Spaniard has become the ultimate cycling wanderer. He fled to the United States and spend several years winning every GC race there, against lesser competition in smaller races with little prestige compared to the famous events he used to ride as a star in Europe.
Last year, Mancebo was forced further into exile at age 38 when fall-out from the USADA Reasoned Decision on Lance Armstrong and US Postal made him unwelcome even on low budget domestic squads. Not too many young American riders were sad to see him go. In fact, we had the impression that Mancebo operated in a kind of bubble, oblivious to everything except his bike and the road in front of him.
He ended up in the desert which made perfect symbolic for a wanderer. He now rides for the Sky Dive Dubai team and that sounds about as lonely as it gets for a man with a wife and two kids. Maybe the family is back in Spain or maybe they’ve joined him in some strange high rise in Dubai.
Mancebo was once described as a simple man by his old boss Michael Ball at Rock Racing. The quote went something like “Paco just wants to race his bike and fuck his wife.” Now as a life philosophy, we can’t diss that too much but it’s clear that Mancebo will literally ride for anyone, anywhere who will write a decent check. He would take a rocket into deep space and ride the Tour of Mars is there was any money in it.
So today the news come from Cairo, Egypt that Mancebo scored three medals in the Arab Games Clubs. He took silver in the road race and time trial and bronze in the team time trial. And no, he was not racing against Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Boonen, Chris Froome or Tony Martin. Just a bunch of guys from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan and Jordan. Now, no slight on those bike racers but it’s a long fall from grace for Mancebo.
He just wants to keep riding despite his age and limited prospects for employment and that reminds us that there’s an American in a similar situation: Chris Horner. At 43 years of age, he found himself out of contract at Lampre-Merida and couldn’t even find a ride back home with budget domestic squads like Jelly Belly.
Still, Horner wants to keep riding no matter what and has apparently sighed a deal with an unknown team named Airgas-Safeway. A far cry from WorldTour giants Lampre-Merida, RadioShack, Astana and Trek were he once worked, riding the biggest races in the world. Sixteen months removed from winning the Vuelta a Espana and he’s begging for a ride.
Horner does speak some Spanish. Perhaps he should have joined Mancebo down in the desert.