Frenchman adds second stage win in Albacete
The 2014 season has marked Nacer Bouhanni’s ascent to the very upper echelons of world sprinting, and his victory at Albacete on stage 8 of the Vuelta a España – his second of the race – was merely a confirmation of the fact.
During the stage 5 finish in Ronda, Bouhanni was denied victory when he was unable to find space between John Degenkolb and the barriers. This time around, he left nothing to chance by opening his sprint early and then shutting out Michael Matthews to claim the win.
“I know that when I open my sprint with 200 metres to go, it’s difficult to overtake me because I accelerate very well, but this time I preferred to go from 300 metres out, without any hesitation,” Bouhanni said.
Bouhanni’s victory was his fifth in a Grand Tour this season, following his hat-trick at the Giro d’Italia and his win in San Fernando last weekend. He was absent from FDJ.fr’s Tour de France line-up, however, but in spite of that setback, his successes this year seem to have cemented his status.
“It’s pretentious to say it, but yes, I think I can be among the best,” Bouhanni said when asked of his place in the sprinting hierarchy.
The Frenchman was careful to stop short, however, of declaring himself the fastest sprinter in the world. “I don’t want to answer that,” he said quietly. “Again, it would be pretentious to say something. I don’t want to make a ranking, but I do believe I’m among the best.”
Whatever about the unofficial title of best sprinter in the world, Bouhanni’s surprisingly strong showing on the uphill finish at Arcos de la Frontera, where he finished 8th ahead of some very illustrious names, has sparked speculation that the 24-year-old might even be a contender for the world championships in Ponferrada next month.
The circuit is said to suit a fast finisher with the ability to survive on the climbs – Peter Sagan and John Degenkolb have been widely touted as contenders – and Bouhanni was hopeful of being part of French manager Bernaud Bourreau’s line-up.
“We’ve spoken,” he said. “We’ve spoken about the course, which I think suits me well. I feel like I’m in good form, although two days ago I suffered with sunstroke and I was on the point of abandoning.
“But I hope my legs will keep responding well in the days to come. Bernard Bourreau is coming to the Vuelta and we’ll probably talk about it when he’s out here.”
If the rainbow jersey is a hazy dream at this point, the green jersey of the Vuelta’s points classification is gradually coming into focus. Although it is not weighted in favour of the sprinters, Bouhanni won the competition at the Giro, where the scoring system is similar.
“We’ll see as the days go by,” said Bouhanni, who trails Degenkolb by 13 points. “If I win the next sprint, it will probably become one of my objectives. For now Degenkolb is still ahead, but in the next sprint I’ll try for sure.”
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