Freeman Cebu Sports

Who is Paco Mancebo?

ALLEZ - Jose Vicente Araneta - The Freeman

All of us cycling fans would love nothing more than to watch the Tour de France. Unfortunately, most of use can’t, but there are times when we get a memorabilia like the Livestrong bands that makes us feel that we’re in our . Or the two TdF shirts I got from Iris Ouano-Blanchard and my sis, Flom.

For me the nearest thing that I got to the Tour happened to me twice. In 1989, Frank Kersten, a pro who rode for the number1 team in the world at that time, PDM, raced here upon the invitation Claudio Baclaan and friends. Fast forward nice years later, when the Marlboro Tour gained recognition by the UCI, I met Phil Ligett, who signed my magazine and he agreed too have a photo with me and a good friend Ias Camilo. Of course, 3-time TdF green jersey winner and winner of 12 stages, Robbie McEwen came for a visit last year. There may be a Tour rider who came here who I missed but not a top 5 ride. Not until last week.

Francisco Mancebo Perez- also known more popularly as Paco Mancebo (In Spain, the mom’s name is placed after the fathers name), came over to join the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 with his Japanese team.

Paco, who finished the Tour as high as 4th place behind behind Lance Armstrong in 2005, also came in 6th a year previous and then 10th place a year earlier.

But what happened to Paco and why did his star fizzled out? Two words: Operation Puerto.

OP was the name of the police anti-doping operation aimed at catching Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and his network of cyclists that he “treated”. It felled the names of Jan Ullrich, Alejandro Valverde, Jose Beloki, Alberto Contador and Paco and lots more.

There was this belief that Paco  was banned from cycling and retired. But according the Spaniard, he, “refocused”. He moved to the US to ride for the renegade team, Rock Racing. He then jumped from team to team but was never able to ride at the top-level again.

But it didn’t matter because in a small pond, he was the big fish, the main attraction. He stayed in the US racing scene for while before moving to Dubai, then to Japan. It is with a Japanese team that he rode the Ronda this year.

Already 42yo, Paco is still going strong. He excels in long climbs and can hold his own during time trials. that’s why he is a stage racer. You can’t miss him in the peloton. Mancebo has this weird asymmetric head position, like he is suffering from a condition called “torticollis”, where the muscles of the neck on one side is contracted always.  1, In this years Ronda, Paco schooled the young riders on winning, by winning stage 1 and the overall classification. Just goes to show that with the right discipline, you can still be at the top off your game.

It showed also how our cyclists still have a lot of kamote to eat before they can be world classs. Paco may have a tainted past but he loved this sport. Viva Paco!!!

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