Bouhanni backs French team to work together at Worlds

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) underlined his condition ahead of the UCI Road World Championships by winning the Tour de Vendée, the final round of the Coupe de France series, on Sunday.

Bouhanni beat Coupe de France winner Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r-La Mondiale) into second, while Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) placed third. Coquard was omitted from Bernard Bourreau’s French team for the Worlds, though Milan-San Remo winner Arnaud Démare (FDJ) will is included alongside Bouhanni.

“The coach has made his choices in good conscience and I’m not going to judge or criticize his decisions,” Bouhanni told L’Équipe. “He has built a group that he has confidence in, and I hope we’ll be able to prove him right on the road. I’m not worried about it because I’m certain that the team will work together perfectly.”

The French squad is made up entirely of riders from FDJ and Cofidis, and much will depend on how Bouhanni and Démare will cohabit once the leadership has been decided. The pair were such rivals as under-23 riders that Bourreau left Bouhanni out of his team for the Melbourne Worlds in 2010 after he had failed dovetail his efforts with Démare at the European Championships earlier in the season.

Bouhanni and Démare later raced together as professionals with FDJ, where they rode largely separate programmes and memorably competed with one another for the lone sprinter berth on the Tour de France team. Bouhanni departed for Cofidis at the end of the 2014 campaign.

As part of his build-up to the Worlds, Bouhanni will race at Paris-Bourges on Thursday before tackling Paris-Tours at the weekend, and he welcomed ASO’s decision to lengthen the distance to 252 kilometres.

“I think it’s a very good thing to have modified the route of Paris-Tours, to have extended the distance so as to gives us Worlds conditions,” he said. “It is in any case a race that I’ve always loved. It corresponds to my profile and it has made me dream for a long time.”

Bouhanni has won 11 races in 2016, including four WorldTour triumphs at Paris, the Volta a Catalunya and the Critérium du Dauphiné, but his campaign to this point will be recalled more for ill fortune surrounding bigger events.

He placed fourth at Milan-San Remo after unshipping his chain during the sprint on the Via Roma, and his disappointment can hardly have been dampened by the fact that Démare emerged victorious. Bouhanni then missed the Tour de France altogether after injuring his hand during an altercation with fellow hotel guests on the eve of the French Championships, but said the Worlds was not the only focus of the final weeks of his campaign.

“It’s obviously good for a sprinter to win races in a sprint a few weeks before a big objective. That allows me to gain confidence. I know the form is there, that’s essential. I’m obliged to think about the Worlds since it’s made for a sprinter, but I haven’t necessarily focused my season around it,” he said. “I’m taking the races one by one, and I think I’ll really have my head at the Worlds after Paris-Tours.”

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