Forgotten rider: Jesús Manzano
This is an article from Dutch cycling blog Het is Koers and was written in September 2011 by Frank Heinen (@fheinen).
Translated (with Franks permission) because of Manzano’s role in the Fuentes trials which started this week.
Seventh stage of the Tour de France 2003. A mountain stage. Four riders form the breakaway of the day: Paolo Bettini, Rolf Aldag, Médéric Clain and Benoit Poilvet. The peloton lets them go, the day is still long and the mountains are high.
On the first serious climb of the day, the Col de Porte, two riders break away from the bunch in search of the leaders. The two are Richard Virenque and the unknown Spaniard Jésus Manzano. Virenque climbs in his characteristic manner, the small Kelme rider follows him like a shadow. As soon as Virenque notices that Manzano does not have the intention to let go, he refuses to do any work anymore. Virenque has his teammate Bettini up front.
Manzano forcibly takes the lead. Inexperienced you might think. But he does move forward. For three kilometres the two riders brotherly climb the Col. They are winning time on the leaders. Then, suddenly, Virenque attacks from the Spaniard’s wheel.
Manzano drifts over the melting asphalt. He overestimated himself, the commentators mutter and cross his name.
A short while later the camera finds the Spaniard one more time. The director is just in time t0 show the world how the rider topples over from sheer misery. Manzano stays down on the road side. He shakes, shivers. Foam appears around the edges of his mouth. Tom Simpson, the commentators yell.
An ambulance arrives and Jésus Manzano leaves the Tour de France to never return again. Virenque dances away towards the stage win in Morzine.
Manzano barely survives. He gets an injection in the ambulance and a heart monitor is immediately attached to his body. Nobody knows what’s wrong, including the rider. His tongue is thick and swollen, he can barely breathe.
After the Tour Manzano ends up in a crisis. He doesn’t want to race anymore but the team management forces him to start in the Tour of Portugal and Vuelta.
He won’t finish the Vuelta. He leaves the hotel in silence. The team’s press release mentions a particular reason for Manzano’s disappearance. Soigneurs found out there was a woman in his room. And a Kelme-rider should save his energy for the race. Exit Manzano. End of contract.
The memory of Jésus Manzano seem to disappear in the fog of the past. His only legacy: a physical collapse and a forbidden orgasm in his hotel room.
March 2004 is the first time we see his name again in the sports papers around the world. In a series of articles called “How does a rider dope?’ by Spanish paper AS Manzano tells all. In short: the cycling world is a mini-universe of deceit, doping and manipulation.
The confessions are very detailed, Manzano describes how he received an injection before that Tour de France stage. He hoped that it was his own EPO-enriched blood. But it was something else, that mystery substance that was injected into his bloodstream. Manzano wants to know what it is, but nobody wants to tell him. Top secret.
With the miracle drug flowing through his veins, he calls his girlfriend Marina shortly before the start. “Don’t forget to turn on the tv. It might very well be that I am going to be good today.”
In the series of interviews Manzano unveils the cycling world:
- daily EPO
- blood transfusions
- transport of blood in wine cartons
- UCI informants warning ahead for blood tests
- every rider pays €3,000 to the team before the start. For the necessary ‘medication.’
- when doping inspectors enter the hotel, riders with a low hematocrit level would be send down. The heavy users stay in their room and quickly inject themselves with glucose and human protein. That can bring the hematocrit level down four points.
Deceit and medical insanity, every day of the week. The picture Manzano paints is blacker than black.
The rider’s confessions do not get a warm welcome in the cycling world. Whoever leaves the circle of honour needs to keep the omertá intact. Whoever spills the beans, needs to be avenged.
Manzano is threatened, insulted and taunted in public. It reinforces his belief that decay ate his way through cycling and reached the foundations. It doesn’t really help his cause that he did his confessions with money problems and revenge feelings on the background. He says they owe him salary and that he is unable to find any work since his cycling career came to an abrupt halt.
You see, the accused smile. He is just a frustrated fool.
Three years after his dismissal at Kelme Jésus Manzano appears on the Spanish tv one more time. While he answers the questions about his motives for spilling the beans, a polygraph follow his bodily reactions. Guests in the studio count the beads of sweat on his forehead.
27 questions and the polygraph is clear: he spoke the truth at 23 out of the 27 questions. He is not completely honest with the other four questions.
After the machine is disengaged, the host asks Manzano what he does now. Well, I worked in construction for a while, he says. But what is he doing now? For the first Jésus Manzano has no answer.