Although France’s winless run at Milan-San Remo will now extend to 21 years, there were signs that the French drought since Laurent Jalabert claimed the title in 1995 might not extend too much longer. For the first time since 1998, two French riders finished in the top 10, with Cofidis' Nacer Bouhanni sixth and Lotto-Soudal's Tony Gallopin ninth, and Bouhanni was adamant that he could have done a lot better.
“I could see myself winning, I was really that confident. That’s why this is so hard to accept. It’s immensely frustrating,” Bouhanni told L’Équipe at the finish.
The Frenchman acknowledged that sixth place on his Milan-San Remo debut was an encouraging performance, but lamented the lack of support from his team in the finale and his own poor positioning for his failure to challenge more strongly for victory.
“Once again it was my own poor positioning that worked against me,” he admitted, and added, “But there’s no secret, when you find you’re all alone as I was again today when setting up my sprint then you can’t expect miracles. All that was missing was someone to lead me out.”
Seen struggling with eventual runner-up Alexandre Kristoff (Katusha) at the back of the peloton on the Cipressa, Bouhanni said he was still a long way back going onto the Poggio but managed to work his way up to about 15th place at the top of the race’s final climb.
“I thought I’d done the hard part, but then I found myself behind Philippe Gilbert when he crashed on the descent. I had to close the gap again,” he explained. He confessed his positioning in the sprint, where he was about in about 10th place 200 metres from the line, wasn’t good either.
“What makes me most angry is that there were five of us lined out for second place and I finished sixth. I’m terribly disappointed, it’s going to take me some time to come to terms with this,” he said. “I came here to win, and not for anything else but first place.”
Bouhanni’s focus will now turn to next weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem, which he will also be racing for the first time and where he will be aiming to boost Cofidis’ dismal WorldTour record, which stands at one win since the start of the 2012 season.