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Mancebo takes over lead in Chihuahua

Francisco Mancebo is the new overall leader of the Vuelta Chihuahua, and if things work out the way the Spaniard hopes, the soon-to-be newest member of Rock Racing. On Thursday, Mancebo (Fercase-Rota dos Moveis) took a big step toward defending his 2007 title in this UCI 2.2 America Tour race, finishing third in the rolling 18.9km time trial from Pitoreal to Divisadero, and jumping from second to first in the overall standings.

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Camaño wins time trial

By Jason Sumner

Mancebo takes over GC.

Mancebo takes over GC.

Photo: Jason Sumner

Francisco Mancebo is the new overall leader of the Vuelta Chihuahua, and if things work out the way the Spaniard hopes, the soon-to-be newest member of Rock Racing.

On Thursday, Mancebo (Fercase-Rota dos Moveis) took a big step toward defending his 2007 title in this UCI 2.2 America Tour race, finishing third in the rolling 18.9km time trial from Pitoreal to Divisadero, and jumping from second to first in the overall standings.

Fellow Spaniard Iker Camaño (Scott-American Beef) took top honors on the day, stopping the clock in 25:42 in a stage that ended near the edge of Copper Canyon. Scott teammate Juan Jose Cobo was second, at 0:26, with Mancebo another 12 seconds back.

3rd Vuelta Chihuahua
Stage 4, ITT from Pitoreal to Divisadero, 18.9km


? Winner: Spaniard Iker Camaño (Scott-American Beef) stopped the clock in 25:42 in a stage that ended near the edge of Copper Canyon.
? Leader: Spaniard Francisco Mancebo (Fercase-Rota dos Moveis) moved from second to first, after finishing third on the stage. Former GC leader Gregario Ladino (Tecos-Trek) was seventh, at 1:09.
? Under-23: Despite falling from third to fourth overall after finishing 17th on the stage, American Tom Peterson (Garmin-Chipotle) maintained his white jersey lead.
? KoM: American Patrick McCarty (Garmin-Chipotle) maintained his top placing.
? Points: Canadian Francois Parisien (Team RACE Pro) remains on top.
? Team: Tecos-Trek leads Fercase-Rota dos Moveis by just five seconds.
? Peloton: 108 started, down two from the 110 finishers on Wednesday.
? Next: Stage 5, a rolling 152.8km ride from Creel to Cuauhtémoc. Most of the climbing comes early, so look for either a breakaway by riders out of GC contention or a bunch sprint.

Meanwhile, former overall leader Gregario Ladino (Tecos-Trek) was seventh, at 1:09, and is now second overall, 26 seconds back on Mancebo. American Tom Peterson (Garmin-Chipotle) also had a lackluster outing, finishing 17th, at 2:09, and dropping from third to fourth overall.

After the stage Mancebo said overall victory was far from assured, and that he’s hoping to get a deal done with Rock Racing by the end of this seven-stage race that’s winding a clockwise loop around the largest of Mexico’s 31 states.

“But first I must see the contract,” said Mancebo, 32, who’s twice been top four overall at a grand tour — third at the 2005 Vuelta a España and fourth at the ’05 Tour de France behind Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and winner Lance Armstrong.

In 2006, things turned sour when the then-Ag2R rider’s name was linked to the infamous Operacion Puerto doping affair, and he was barred from starting the Tour. That prompted Mancebo to retire from the sport, but he had a change of heart at the end of the year and returned in 2007 with Relax-Gam. His most notable ’07 result was his win in Mexico, and in the off-season he switched teams once again, resurfacing with the Portugal-based Fercase-Rota dos Moveis.

Stage 4 winner Iker Camano

Stage 4 winner Iker Camano

Photo: Jason Sumner

Mancebo’s 2008 resume includes a sixth at the Spanish national time trial championship and a fourth at the national mountain bike marathon race.

“I hope to come back with a bigger team next year, and yes I talk to an American team,” he confirmed, before revealing that he’s had contract discussions with California-based Rock Racing but no deal has been struck. “I have hopes that it will happen soon.”

Stage 4’s ever-rolling route saw riders climbing or descending virtually the entire time. The longest ascent was in the 10-minute range. Several descents were steep and straight enough to yield speeds in excess of 50mph.

VeloNews watched the race from inside the Garmin-Chipotle team car that followed Peterson, the 106th of 108 riders to contest the stage. The 22-year-old looked strong early, starting the opening climb in his big chainring and only dropping down after team director Johnny Weltz leaned out the window and insisted he spin not grind.

Weltz offers encouragement.

Weltz offers encouragement.

Photo: Jason Sumner

“Come on buddy, you must suffer, dig deep,” exclaimed Weltz. “Come on, come on, come on.”

But Weltz’s constant encourage during the nearly 28-minute ride wasn’t enough, as Peterson saw his run at the final podium thwarted. Going into stage 4, the Seattle resident is nine seconds back of stage winner Camaño, who leapt from 16th to third on GC.

“I think it was the altitude. I was gasping right away and I couldn’t pedal,” lamented Peterson, whose Garmin GPS showed a 7500-foot reading at the start. “It’s pretty disappointing. I really wanted a top 3. I expected to be able to hold two-minute gap, but I guess not.”

Peterson grinds over the top of a climb.

Peterson grinds over the top of a climb.

Photo: Jason Sumner

Peterson did hold onto his lead in the under-23 category to go with teammate Patrick McCarty continued place atop the KoM standings.

Next up is stage 5’s 152.8km rolling ride from Creel to Cuauhtémoc. Most of the climbing comes early, so look for either a breakaway by riders out of GC contention, or a bunch sprint.

“There is still much racing to go,” admitted Mancebo. “It will not be easy.”

Race note:
There was no sign of the protesters who took over stage 3’s podium presentation near Creel on Wednesday, but there was a heavy police and military presence all along the stage 4 course.

The police were out in force.

The police were out in force.

Photo: Jason Sumner

“I think there are more police here than spectators,” half-joked Garmin’s Weltz, who said he spotted numerous armed soldiers along the road during the 40-minute drive from the team hotel in Creel to the startline.

Mexico is in the throes of a violent drug war, and two months ago, 13 Creel locals were gunned down in the popular tourist town where stage 3 finished and stage 5 will begin. The crime remains unsolved, which has led some of the victims’ families to protest what they say is a lack of government action to bring the culprits to justice.

On Wednesday, they brought that message to the Vuelta Chihuahua, unfurling banners and essentially taking over the podium presentation.

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage 4 Results:

1 CAMAÑO, Iker ESP SCOTT-AMERICAN BEEF 0:25:42

2 COBO, Juan Jose ESP SCOTT-AMERICAN BEEF a 26

3 MANCEBO, Francisco ESP FERCASE-ROTA DOS MOV a 38

4 HERRERO, David ESP XACOBEO-GALICIA a 57

5 CASTAÑO, Carlos ESP XACOBEO-GALICIA a 01:05

6 ALDAPE, Antonio MEX CANELS-TURBO-Mayordo a 01:06

7 LADINO, Gregorio COL TECOS-TREK a 01:09

8 ROTH, Ryan CAN RACE PRO a 01:12

9 COLEX, Bernardo MEX TECOS-TREK a 01:14

10 DONALD, Jason USA GARMIN CHIPOTLE a 01:18

GC after stage 4:

1 MANCEBO, Francisco ESP FERCASE-ROTA DOS MOV 13:07:04

2 LADINO, Gregorio COL TECOS-TREK a 26

3 CAMAÑO, Iker ESP SCOTT-AMERICAN BEEF a 01:51

4 PETERSON, Thomas USA GARMIN CHIPOTLE a 02:02

5 GOMEZ M, J. Angel ESP SCOTT-AMERICAN BEEF a 02:08

6 CASTAÑO, Carlos ESP XACOBEO-GALICIA a 02:19

7 COBO, Juan Jose ESP SCOTT-AMERICAN BEEF a 02:21

8 MAGALLANES, Juan P. MEX TECOS-TREK a 02:22

9 DONALD, Jason USA GARMIN CHIPOTLE a 02:40

10 GUAMA, Byron ECU CANELS-TURBO-Mayordo a 02:41