Nacer Bouhanni will not ride the Tour de France, with the Frenchman ruled out just three days ahead of the Grand Départ having failed to recover from a hand injury sustained last weekend.
The 25-year-old required four stitches in his right hand after he reportedly punched a fellow guest who was making noise at the hotel where Bouhanni was staying ahead of the French national championships road race. He started, and later abandoned, that race but Cofidis today announced that the wound was "badly dealt with" and that he was forced to undergo surgery on Tuesday evening.
"The decision was made not to take any risk to the health of the athlete, who now needs to rest before focusing on new goals," read a statement from Cofidis.
“It transpired that the wound was badly dealt with. With the situation deteriorating, Nacer was operated on at 6pm on Tuesday at the University Hosptial in Nancy.”
Nicolas Edet will replace Bouhanni in the line-up in what is a huge disruption to the focus of the team, which had largely been built around the French sprinter. Geoffrey Soupe, Christophe Laporte, and Borut Bozic were all set to form part of a dedicated lead-out train but now find themselves without a leader to work for.
“A rider who has performed well in the mountains and who has already taken part in three editions of the Tour de France, Nicolas will come in to bolster the ‘mountain group’ alongside Arnold Jeannesson and Daniel Navarro,” said Cofidis.
“The team’s strategy will evidently be reoriented as a result of this withdrawal. The motivation and determination of the team remains intact in terms of the objective of winning a stage.”
This late withdrawal is the latest chapter in a troubled relationship between Bouhanni and the Tour de France. On his debut in 2013 he was forced to abandon through illness, while he was overlooked for selection by his FDJ team the following year.
Last year, in the red of Cofidis, he went into the race with high hopes, in fine form after a brace of stage wins at the Critérium du Dauphiné, but his race was over before he’d even had a chance to contest a bunch sprint as he came down in a mass pile-up on stage 5.
Things were looking promising ahead of this year’s Tour, with the Cofidis lead-out train having been honed into a smoother operation, and Bouhanni having taken seven sprint victories – including another Dauphiné stage – since the start of the campaign.