Poor Sammy Sanchez, cast out in the desert, alone and with no water in his bottle.
While still searching for a team for the coming season, the ex-Euskatel captain was on holiday in Dubai and perhaps wondering if this might be his final destination.
Sad times are these when WorldTour teams fold, economies collapse and a sport still reels from the USADA Reasoned Decision. Sammy, the man who once finished in the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France, now banished to the desert, an inhumanly hot and inhospitable place where there are more camels that carbon race bikes.
Still, Sammy holds out hope and he has done what other desperate souls must do to feed his family: go where the money is, the oil rich city of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
After all, his countryman, the nomadic Paco Mancebo, is already here. Once he reached fourth place in the 2005 Tour de France, but Mancebo was later forced to exit Europe for a ride in the United States after the Operacion Puerto scandal. His exile was painful but at least he got to ride the Tour of Elk Grove and also see the grand lights of Payson in the Tour of Utah.
Now Mancebo finds himself in Dubai, this strange place, about to ride for the Emirati Sky Dive team. It has been a long and twisted road for Mancebo but he will do what a man must do to put food on the table. If Dubai has a paycheck, then it doesn’t matter if it’s not Movistar.
So poor Sammy Sanchez made his way down to Dubai and met with UAE Cycling Federation president Osama al Shafar. He came away impressed — there is money to be had, a King’s fortune perhaps, and the people of Dubai adore their bikes, especially when the summer temperatures reach over 110 degrees. While gas may be cheap in Dubai, there are bike stores on every corner and beautiful roads to ride out into the scorching desert.
Sanchez and Mancebo are spreading the word about Dubai throughout the unemployed peloton. Perhaps their friend Luis Leon Sanchez, booted out of Belkin after years of doping rumors, may find a place in the desert.
And over in the United States, recent Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Horner still hunts for work. A place such as Dubai would welcome the 42 year old professional cyclist and yes, there is room on the Sky Dive squad. He can room with Sammy and Leon and Paco. These checks are good and they do not bounce and the Middle East has a rich cycling tradition.