The Frenchman finished sixth on his debut in Milan-San Remo last season but came away from the race frustrated by his failure to seize the opportunity in the sprint on the Via Roma, where John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) took the win.
“I know I can win it,” Bouhanni told L’Équipe. “With 200 metres to go, I was on Sagan’s wheel but I didn’t dare open the sprint early. It was a big error that I won’t commit again.”
Bouhanni will start his 2016 campaign at the Challenge Mallorca at the end of this month and will race Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo and the Volta a Catalunya, but will forgo the cobbled classics. He will line out at the Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of the Tour de France, where his aim is to win at least one stage. Crashes forced Bouhanni out of both the Tour and Vuelta a Espana in 2015.
At the end of the 2016 season, Bouhanni will hope to be the French team leader at the World Championships in Doha, although his former FDJ manager Marc Madiot on Thursday championed the cause of Bouhanni’s former stable-mate and ongoing rival Arnaud Démare, saying: “I’m almost certain he [Démare] will regain his place as France’s number 1 sprinter.”
“It’s still a long way off but I’m thinking about it,” Bouhanni said of the Qatar Worlds. “In any case, [French coach Bernard] Bourreau will have to approach it differently [to 2015] and maybe this time not forget [Thomas] Voeckler…”
Bouhanni's 2015 campaign ultimately yielded 12 victories, including two stage wins at the Critérium du Dauphiné, but the 25-year-old endured a trying start to life at Cofidis following his high-profile transfer from FDJ.
“Last year a lot of people didn’t race to win but to make me lose,” Bouhanni said.
Bouhanni also finished the year atop the UCI Europe Tour standings, but a feature of his campaign was his struggle to build a successful lead-out train at Cofidis. Two of the riders he requested at the French Pro Continental team, Steve Chainel and Dominique Rollin, have since left, Chainel to focus on cyclo-cross, while Rollin has reportedly retired.
“At the price he’s being paid, Nacer absolutely had to win. There were tensions and in the end I lost a friend,” Chainel told L’Équipe of his time with Bouhanni at Cofidis.
“With Chainel, I mixed friendship with my job, but in this milieu, it’s difficult to talk about friendship,” Bouhanni said. “Cycling is a demanding sport and in the end, I’ve always been correct with people who do their jobs.”
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