Nacer Bouhanni: I'm already in contact with other teams for 2020

'I'm telling myself the coming years will be better' says Frenchman after Cofidis tensions

Nacer Bouhanni has begun negotiations with various teams as he tries to plan for a future that is likely to be away from the Cofidis team where he has raced for the past three seasons.

The French sprinter was a marquee signing for the French Professional Continental team from WorldTour outfit FDJ after a successful 2014 season, but relations have soured in the past 12 months after a change in the management structure.

Yvon Sanquer was sacked as team boss at the end of 2017 and replaced by Cedric Vasseur, and Bouhanni has since found his leadership role taken away, with the team backing his old lead-out man Christophe Laporte in a number of races.

Tensions were rife in 2018, some of it played out via the media and Bouhanni, who was repeatedly told he needed to prove his worth, was ultimately left out of the squad for the Tour de France. A stage win at the Vuelta a España allowed Bouhanni to finish 2018 on a good note, and although the 2019 season has only just begun, he's already thinking about the next one.

"I'm already in contact with other French teams, and some foreign teams. Pro Continental on the French side, but WorldTour teams on the foreign side," Bouhanni told Cyclingnews at the recent Tour of Oman.

"It's still too early to say my future has been decided or anything. At this moment in time I don't know and can't say, but for the moment discussions are taking place. I think it will be sorted quite soon but, personally, I'm in no hurry. I want to reflect on it and not make a mistake about my choice for the future."

Bouhanni was cautious about ruling out staying with Cofidis, noting that "things move quickly in the world of cycling", but his response was suggestive when asked what he's looking for from a new contract.

"To find the trust that I had before," he said. "A good sporting project where I can do well on the bike and, above all, enjoy it, which is important mentally."

The road ahead

Bouhanni started his season at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, followed by the Tour of Oman, and he'll race Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday ahead of Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. He insists he hasn't been given an indication of his programme beyond that, and explained he'll only find out if he's riding the Tour five days in advance, after the French national championships.

Asked if it was still the case that he needed to prove himself to make selections, he said: "Voila, exactly", and if that was frustrating: "Yeah, it is what it is."

Bouhanni, however, is keen to leave the tensions to one side and look at the road ahead.

"It hurts, of course, and, in terms of morale, last year was complicated. But I'm looking to move on. I'm not thinking about negative things; I'm looking for the positives. I'm trying to focus on what's ahead of me," he said. 

"I've had some good seasons at Cofidis - 2015 was perhaps the best - but there have been plenty of tough moments too. There have been disappointments, crashes. But that's a part of my cycling career. You have to bounce back. I've taken a lot of knocks during my career, but I keep my head up and I keep going.

"I hope in the future things will be better. It's like I say to myself every year 'that's the worst season I've had' and then it gets worse still. But there you go. I'm 28; I'm not exactly old. There are riders who, at 28, suddenly come of age. I'm saying to myself that the coming years will be better."

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