FDJ.fr sprinter wants to prove critics wrong and reach Trieste
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) goes into today’s 10th stage of the Giro d'Italia with his sights set on securing a third stage victory and cementing his push to become the first Frenchman to win the race’s points title since Laurent Jalabert in 1999. Although critics and even his FDJ.fr directeur sportif say that the 23-year-old sprinter is likely to struggle to get through the mountains in the Giro’s final week, Bouhanni says he draws motivation from these comments and insists he will be wearing the red points jersey in Trieste on 1 June.
"I've got the red jersey and I'm not going to let go of it," Bouhanni says in a rest day interview with L'Équipe. The feisty Frenchman, who watches former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson's fights in the evenings to psych himself up, says he has no fears about his prospects in the high mountains, although he admits he won't be disappointed if the Stelvio and Gavia passes are cut from the route.
"I'm not really worried about those stages. In the sprints you experience one sort of tension, and in the mountains I'm going to face another kind of stress, one that's new to me and is tied in to the fear of finishing outside the time limit," Bouhanni explains. "But I feel confident. And also Chavanel, Pichon, Courteille, Le Bon and Fischer will be there to deal with the time limits."
FDJ.fr DS Martial Gayant is not so confident, though, and reveals he is concerned about his rider's lack of experience on such big climbs. "He's climbed Alpe d'Huez once at the Dauphiné. But there's a big gulf between climbs of 1800m and those of 2600m," says Gayant.
Referring to criticism of his ability to recuperate after making big efforts, Bouhanni affirms: "I don't forget comments of that kind, they are wrong. Here we have done a stage of 276km, spent seven and a half hours in the saddle and the next day there was a sprint and I was up there. When people put barriers in my way, it makes me stronger. I want to knock them over. If only to prove that, I will go all the way to Trieste."
Indeed, the Frenchman says he is more concerned about the increasing dangers in the finale of sprint stages. "We've been living on our nerves since the start in Belfast because of the rain and the road surfaces, and there have been a fair number of injuries," says Bouhanni.
He continues: "All this because everyone wants to hold their position, even the team leaders… I've not fallen but it’s grotesque on the flat stages. The rules need to be changed so that times are taken 5km from the finish line [and not 3km as they are now] because it’s there that everything kicks off."
Asked about his ongoing contract negotiations, Bouhanni says the chances of him staying with FDJ are 50-50 and confirms that he wants to have the chance to ride the major Classics, for which he was passed over in the spring.
He also adds fuel to his feud with fellow FDJ sprinter Arnaud Démare, saying he would ride for his teammate "if I felt bad", but declares Démare would not do the same for him. "He doesn't want to cohabit, he has already said that he wouldn't ride for me, and it surprises me to hear that kind of comment. It doesn't show respect to [FDJ team boss Marc] Madiot. But, everyone behaves how they see fit…"
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