Nacer Bouhanni has expressed his wish to try his hand as a professional boxer when his cycling career comes to an end. The French sprinter was a competitive fighter in his youth before switching to cycling and each year, he incorporates boxing into his winter training regimen.
"I'll stop cycling around 32 years of age and that will leave me at least two years to go as high as I can in boxing," Bouhanni told L'Équipe. "Just like as a cyclist, I'll be 100 percent invested in it."
Bouhanni joins Cofidis in 2015 after spending the first four years of his professional career with FDJ.fr, but his off-season preparation retains a similar look. As per tradition, in mid-November, he again travelled to the Nouzonville boxing club, near Sedan, for his annual four-day boxing boot camp.
One of his sparring partners was Hakim Chioui, who will challenge for the European middleweight title in March, and he was impressed by Bouhanni's poise. "Nacer was at all of my preparations for the French Championships," Chioui said. "He's a very good boxer, diligent. He's a sparring partner who I consider like a member of our club."
Chioui's coach, Hamid Zaïm, told L'Équipe that he could envisage Bouhanni becoming the French champion at super-lightweight if and when he decides to enter the ring as a professional. Bouhanni himself was typically succinct when asked about his twin sporting interests. "Boxing is my passion and cycling is my job," he said.
With that in mind, he pointed out that his time inside the ropes was not a mere indulgence, explaining that sparring was the perfect cross-training exercise for a sprinter.
"In boxing, your heart-rate gets up to 180 beats per minute very quickly, like in a sprint," Bouhanni said. "It's ideal for the transmission of energy, for strengthening your upper body and for strengthening your core. On the mental side of things, it helps me to master my emotions before unleashing all of my rage in the final 200 metres."
In the fortnight since that boxing camp, Bouhanni has returned to training on the bike, beginning with a cyclo-cross race in Dijon on November 22. This week, he is in Alpine ski resort of Valloire with the French national team, while his first training camp with Cofidis will take place in Spain from December 9-17.
L'Équipe reports that Bouhanni will begin his 2015 season at the Challenge Mallorca before riding the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman in preparation for his major objectives of the spring, Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem.