Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat) is getting closer, but the French champion has yet to get the better of John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) in the bunch finishes at the Vuelta a España. Bouhanni finished second behind Degenkolb in Sanxenxo on Tuesday, but the 22-year-old said that he had come to Spain to win.
“I came here with the goal of winning a stage,” Bouhanni told L’Équipe. “I’ve been fourth here twice already and I really feel that a victory is in within my grasp. Finishing second on a stage of Vuelta might seem good but I don’t want to be satisfied with that. There aren’t a lot of opportunities left. If I want to win, I’ll have to approach it differently.”
Degenkolb has been unbeatable in the sprints thus far at the Vuelta and his triumph on the rising finishing straight on stage 10 was his fourth of the race. While Bouhanni acknowledged the German’s power, he also pointed to the support of his Argos-Shimano team as a crucial factor in his success.
“It’s true that his really strong but he’s benefiting from a team perfectly built around him, and the rest becomes easy for him,” said Bouhanni.
By contrast, Bouhanni has been left largely to his own devices in the finale and he feels that the energy expended in fighting for position has cost him dearly in the finishing straight.
“Again today, I made efforts that cost me in the final metres,” he said. “I still think I can win a stage but to do that, I can’t make a mistake in preparing the sprint. I’m realising that in a race like this, you don’t have the right to make an error.”
In a Vuelta with so many summit finishes, bunch sprints are at a premium, but Bouhanni believes he will have at least two more opportunities to clash swords with Degenkolb.
“I still have two chances between now and the finish in Madrid to try and win one. I saw today that I’m not far off and that if I had Degenkolb’s train, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to finish it off.”