Nacer Bouhanni has said that he is “95 percent likely” to leave FDJ.fr at the end of this season, with Cofidis reportedly his most likely destination. Last week it was announced that Bouhanni had missed out on selection for FDJ’s Tour de France team to Arnaud Démare, who beat him into second place in the French national championships on Sunday.
“Let’s say that I’m 95% likely to leave the FDJ.fr team at the end of the year. We’ll know more next week. I still have a choice between Cofidis and a foreign team. I’ll decide quite soon but the legal date [to announce a transfer] is still August 1,” Bouhanni said afterwards, according to L’Équipe.
Bouhanni’s trainer Jacques Decrion, told L’Équipe that the sprinter would sign for Cofidis, and the newspaper reports that Geoffrey Soupe will also make the move, although Bouhanni’s lead-out man Sébastien Chavanel will stay put at FDJ.
As well as missing out on Tour selection to Démare, Bouhanni was also overlooked for Milan-San Remo, and a desire to test himself in the spring classics is one of his reasons for leaving FDJ.
“In four years, I haven’t done a single classic and I really want to get to know them,” Bouhanni said. “Yes, there’s a strong chance that I’m leaving the team.”
Although he was named as co-leader of FDJ at Sunday’s road race at Futuroscope, Bouhanni said that his status within the team has changed in recent weeks as a consequence of the high-profile nature of his impending departure.
“On arriving at these championships, I felt that I wasn’t part of the FDJ.fr team in the minds of my teammates. The saga that has fuelled my departure has made it in a way seem that I don’t have the same jersey as the others on my back,” said Bouhanni, who nonetheless paid tribute to the efforts of FDJ’s sizeable contingent in setting up the sprint finish. “There’s nothing to say about the team, they did a great job for Arnaud and me. I simply didn’t have great sensations.”
The final sprint was the reverse of the French championships in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux two years ago, when Bouhanni beat a disappointed Démare. Winner of three stages and the points classification at the Giro d’Italia last month, Bouhanni was lacking the same sparkle in the sprint at Futuroscope.
“I was less strong than Arnaud,” he said. “I was lacking strength in the last 250 metres. In terms of morale, I was ready, but physically I was less good. I’ve already won sprints at 80% but in the French championship, that’s not sufficient.”
After missing the Tour de France, Bouhanni is pencilled in to return to racing at the Eneco Tour on August 11, before a decision is made on whether he rides the Vuelta a España or a series of one-day races including the GP Ouest France and Paris-Brussels.
Démare, meanwhile, travels to Yorkshire this week for his Tour de France debut with the tricolour jersey of French champion on his back. He said that the internal competition with Bouhanni has been a motivation rather than an impediment.
“We’re two sprinters. We’re very quick. We want to win. We both wanted to be French champion. We both want to be at the Tour de France,” Démare said. “His victories at the Giro gave me a boost. I’ve lived this rivalry in a positive way.”