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Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) celebrates the points classification victory
Pinot, Démare and Bouhanni all vying for places
Football managers describe it as the kind of headache they don't mind having. Several of their players come into top form at the same time, providing them with a dilemma to resolve over selection, albeit one where each choice offers some guarantees.
Such is the current situation for FDJ.fr boss Marc Madiot. He already has sprinter Arnaud Démare and climber Thibaut Pinot pencilled in as his Tour leaders, but is now mulling over if and how he can accommodate Giro d’Italia points champion Nacer Bouhanni among his nine starters in Yorkshire on 5 July.
Madiot has already suggested that the decision on Bouhanni's selection will depend to a large extent on how Pinot fares at the Tour de Suisse. The FDJ boss said recently that Pinot would be entitled to ask for an extra climber to be added to the Tour line-up if he finishes well up in the Swiss race - the GC rider recently told L'Équipe that he would have four riders working for him at the Tour. He currently lies 13th, having gained 10 places on stage three thanks to some canny tactics and strong riding by his team.
Despite finishing outside the time limit on the Dauphiné’s final stage, Démare looks nailed on for his Tour debut. That leaves Bouhanni, who has spent the last few days on a training camp in the Vosges with his younger brother Rayane and his FDJ teammate Francis Mourey.
"I've come out of the Giro in perfect condition," Bouhanni has told L'Équipe. "After the Giro I even managed to complete training rides of between seven and eight hours. I really rode well and feel that I passed another barrier."
His coach, Jacques Decrion, was even more effusive, describing Bouhanni as "riding on a cushion of air." "For me, he’s stronger than he was during the Giro… He has gained more muscular mass and has greater power output. Mentally, he is also very strong,”" said Decrion.
Bouhanni is now set to ride the Route du Sud, which starts on Friday. Like the Tour de Suisse, that race finishes on Sunday. Madiot has indicated he will announce his nine riders for the Tour that same evening.
Can he find a way to keep his three big names happy? Or will he go in another direction, perhaps the one suggested by five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault?
Speaking to the Official Tour de France Guide, Hinault declared: "As Kittel, Cavendish, Greipel and Sagan will be at their peak during the month of July, I think he would be better served by focusing on attack. Fédrigo, Elissonde, Geniez, Roux, Geslin, Roy, Vichot: these are real racers and are even more dangerous when they don't have a leader’s jersey to defend!"