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Bad break: Mancebo implodes on Mount Nebo at Utah Tour

The 5-Hour Energy rider gets into a 20-man breakaway but bows out of GC contention on the slopes of the late climb in stage 3

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SALT LAKE CITY (VN) — Francisco Mancebo (5-hour Energy) snuck into the 20-man breakaway that escaped early in stage 3 of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah on Thursday; he was joined by teammate James Stemper. It seemed odd — or was it cagey? — that the 2009 winner of the race, and a GC contender in 2013, would put himself into the break so early in this stage, which featured the pass over the precipitous slopes of Mount Nebo after nearly 100 miles of racing.

Why wouldn’t he wait for the early slopes of Nebo, then attack, taking advantage of the climbing acumen that has helped him win so many races in the past? Or stick with the leaders all day and wait for the tougher mountains that were looming on Saturday (from Snowbasin to Snowbird) and Sunday (Park City to Park City, over Empire Pass)?

Whatever Paco’s plan was, it backfired; he fell out of contention in the overall classification, and can only hope for success on a stage at best.

“I worked for time. In the climb, I didn’t feel good; in the last Ks I had cramps and I say, ‘I need to stop and try to recover,’” Mancebo said. “It’s too hard now [to contend for the overall]. I lost too much time today; I’ll try again some day to win a stage.”

Mancebo has a reputation for sometimes doing things his own way. Did his plan match that of team director Frankie Andreu?

“No. Mancebo said he just followed the wheels and he found himself in the group,” Andreu said. “We were racing today, and no matter what we were getting in the break, but I said in the beginning if you get in the break, ‘Just do what everyone else is doing, just go along.’ But Paco was driving it, Stemper was driving it, and in the end, with a field like this, you can’t afford to lose any energy like that. They used up too much energy in the break.”

Mancebo’s decision to work while the group raced along the flat stretches of rural farmland separating the start town of Richfield from the precipitous slopes of Mount Nebo, and the finish on the other side of the peak, in the town of Payson, may have been the ultimate factor in deciding his fate. His cramps crippled his climbing legs; stage winner Lachlan Morton flashed past him on the climb of Nebo and never looked back. Mancebo continued to plummet, eventually crossing the line 3:24 after Morton. He now sits 24th on GC, 3:33 down.

“I don’t mind the move; I’m frustrated that everybody gets very ‘work happy.’ It’s a lesson, ‘Maybe you can’t race like that against these guys.’ You can’t expend that kind of energy; it’s all about conserving,” Andreu said. “But [Paco] likes working.

“He’s minutes back now. And when you’re minutes back from some of the best guys in the world, you’re going to stay minutes back. We decided to go easy the first two days; this was our first day of really racing. And now it just gets harder, so we’re going to try to keep racing.”