Little engine that could

Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) is a rider always rated among the favourites in recent editions of...

An interview with Francisco Mancebo, September 15, 2005

Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) is a rider always rated among the favourites in recent editions of the Vuelta a España and Tour de France. And this Vuelta was no exception. He won stage 10 in Ordino-Arcalis, and is currently fourth overall. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez Macias spoke with him in his team’s hotel in Leon after stage 15.

Cyclingnews: How was today’s stage?

Francisco Mancebo: It went well, I felt strong. I felt good while climbing, but on the descent it was very dangerous and I didn’t take any chances. I looked for a podium finish, but I didn’t want to risk too much.

CN: It seems this stage 15 will enter into the history of this race.

FM: People didn’t see it well. People saw Roberto Heras as being superior to the rest and I don’t think thatw as the case. I think he risked a lot going down the climb; he planned the race very well, no doubt about it, because he had four teammates in the breakaway. But he did everything at the descent, and the weather conditions [humidity, cold, heavy fog] had a lot of influence on the result.

CN: How do you see the first 15 days of the Vuelta?

FM: So far, I think the best rider has been [Denis] Menchov [Rabobank] and I still think the same. But, Liberty’s strategy was always to go for the race and it's proven to be good. I think this team is the strongest, together with Comunidad Valenciana, and the victories they've achieved prove this. It’s a very strong tour but there are not many foreign [non Spanish] riders and teams that come to fight for the big prizes. CSC has come with [Carlos] Sastre, Rabobank has come with Menchov, but in my opinion the rest of the teams are doing very badly.

CN: You are fourth, but your chances to step on the podium are still alive, right?

FM: Yes, but the truth is that on stage 14 I didn’t feel good [the stage to Lagos de Covadonga] and today I really felt fine, but to be honest, the descent actually scared me. The podium is not near, but I can do it. There are many stages left; the Sierra de Madrid stage [stage 17], the Avila stage [stage 18] that goes through my town and the time trial [stage 20]. Let’s see how I feel. I only have chances to fight for the podium because a stage win will be very difficult.

CN: There’s some rivalry between Carlos Sastre and you considering you are both from Avila?

FM: We are friends and we have been riding since 1993 or '94 in younger divisions and we've always been together in the same team. There’s some rivalry because we race in different teams, but everything remains on the road.

CN: Do you have some stages marked to try an attack?

FM: It’s clear that I have Avila’s stage marked. Last year I attacked there and this year I will attack more because the leaders have a good amount of time over me. So, this should be the key stage.

CN: Which town are you from?

FM: Navaluenga, which comes after 41 kilometres of the stage. We cross El Barranco first - that is Sastre’s town - and then we go through Navaluenga, which is my town.

CN: How is the season going?

FM: I’m doing well this season. I was fourth in the Tour [de France], so far I’m fourth in the Vuelta, I won one stage in the Vuelta and I was runner-up in the Spanish national championships. I think my season is complete. There are still some classics like [Giro di] Lombardia that I would like to do well in and the worlds. But in the worlds I will work for [Alejandro] Valverde, [Miguel Martin] Perdiguero and [Igor] Astarloa.

CN: I guess you had your greatest joy when you won in Ordino-Arcalis.

FM: Yes, in sporting terms [Mancebo had a daughter in July]. It’s hard for me to win; I win one, two races per year and every time I do, I feel a lot of joy. Being fourth in the Tour de France meant very much to me and also taking second place in the Spanish championship. The move to AG2R is a reason to be happy even though it’s not a sporting result.

CN: You are currently fighting for the third place - what do you think you need to fight for the lead, like Menchov and Heras are?

FM: I think I have been fighting for the lead. I raced the Tour de France at the top of my ability and maybe I’m not as fresh as Menchov and Heras are. I won one stage, I did the time trial [Lloret de Mar] well, but with the prologue [actually stage 1] where I lost a lot of time and the time bonuses, up to yesterday I was one minute behind Heras. So, I was fighting with them. Maybe I wasn’t so fresh.

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