Nacer Bouhanni’s Tirreno-Adriatico ended before it really began when he finished outside the time limit in the stage 1 team time trial at Lido di Camaiore. He sat up five kilometres into the Cofidis effort and crossed the line alone, 6:44 down on Mitchelton-Scott’s winning time.
The Frenchman was the sole rider to be eliminated on Wednesday’s opening stage, which took place on a fast 21.5km course in Tuscany. Mitchelton-Scott’s winning average speed was some 57.546kph.
Bouhanni’s absence from the remainder of Tirreno-Adriatico severely compromises his preparation for Milan-San Remo, while the bizarre elimination itself casts further doubt on his future at Cofidis. His contract with the team expires at the end of this season.
“It’s all the more incomprehensible given that we had come to recon the course with the time trial bikes. Everything was going well,” Cofidis directeur sportif Roberto Damiani told L’Équipe. “Nacer was keen to measure himself against Viviani and Gaviria and then today he did two turns on the front and let himself get dropped.
“When I went to him to say, ‘be careful, the time limit is very tight in this kind of time trial, they’re going at over 57kph,’ he told me not to worry about it.”
Bouhanni was a marquee signing for Cofidis in 2015 but found his status on the team diminished following Cedric Vasseur’s appointment as team manager at the beginning of last season. Vasseur ultimately opted not to bring Bouhanni to the 2018 Tour de France, preferring to select Christophe Laporte as the team’s sprinter in July.
Bouhanni went on to claim a stage victory at the Vuelta a España, and both he and Vasseur appeared to strike a more conciliatory tone in their public utterances at the start of 2019. In January, Bouhanni declared himself “ready to ride wherever, with whomever” in an interview with L’Équipe.
Last month, Bouhanni told Cyclingnews that he was in talks with other teams for 2020, though he did not rule out remaining at Cofidis. Vasseur, meanwhile, suggested that Bouhanni would have to justify his asking price before formal negotiations could begin with Cofidis.
It remains to be seen where this latest misstep will leave Bouhanni’s relationship with his team. The 28-year-old has yet to win a race this season. The next race on his schedule is Milan-San Remo, where he placed 4th in 2016 despite slipping his chain in the sprint on the Via Roma.