Nacer Bouhanni says his Cofidis team is working hard on getting its sprint train organised as he goes into the Tour of Oman on Tuesday looking for his first win of the season. The French sprinter admits his new team struggled to get him in the right position to contend with the likes of Alexander Kristoff at the Tour of Qatar last week and reckons it will take a couple of races for Cofidis to get things right.
Bouhanni, who was Cofidis’ marquee signing going into this season, tells L’Équipe he was surprised by the general level of form in Qatar. “You don’t see anyone toiling any more. You have to be ready, if not you really pay for it,” says the Frenchman, whose third place on the final stage in Qatar was his best result of a season that began with the Challenge Mallorca.
“We tried to work as hard as we could on building our continuity as a group, which was the objective,” Bouhanni explains. “But two guys from my train, Dominique Rollin and Geoffrey Soupe, crashed and were set back by that. I hope that in Oman things will run much more smoothly.”
Bouhanni reveals that he and his teammates took part in debriefings each evening in Qatar to assess what they got right and wrong. “We discussed our roles, where this person has to be at such a distance from the line, and if they weren’t there how things had gone awry,” he says.
The Frenchman admits the main error they were making was poor placement when echelons were likely to form, resulting in resources being wasted in subsequent chases. But he insists things will fall into place, especially when his best form comes. He estimates he is currently at about 80% of his best as he builds up towards his first two principal objectives of the season, Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo.
“We just need everyone to find their place [in the train], and to do things naturally, without thinking too much, without having to say too much to each other,” Bouhanni explains. “I am after all in a new team and I knew that it would take at least two races to get things sorted out.”
Going back to his professional debut 2010, Bouhanni has always managed to bag his first win of the season within his first dozen days of racing. “I like to win early on in the season, I’ve had a lot of wins in February,” he acknowledges. “There are at least three sprints in Oman, so there will be opportunities. My form is building, I felt better and better in Qatar. I hope it keeps rising going into Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo.”
He also insists he has nothing to prove having switched to Cofidis. “The colour of my jersey has changed but I’m still the same. I’ve still got as much motivation and determination,” he says. “I put pressure on myself, I don’t need anyone else to tell me to do this or that. I’m very demanding on myself.”