A disappointed Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) opted for silence once the race commissaires confirmed his declassification following his clash with Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) in the finishing straight of stage 2 of Paris-Nice, but the Frenchman had already offered his view of the sprint while waiting for their verdict.
Indeed, such are the exigencies of live television, Bouhanni was immediately shepherded towards the podium area after the finish, despite the clear need for a review of a fraught sprint that saw him touch shoulders with Matthews in the final 20 metres and narrowly avoid falling.
Even though Matthews had already raised an arm in protest on crossing the line in Commentry, and then quickly issued instructions via radio for his directeur sportif to lodge a formal complaint, France Télévisions cornered Bouhanni for the customary flash interview with the stage winner.
"The road curved to the left in the last 50 metres so I launched my sprint on the left and I went to take that line," Bouhanni said. "He [Matthews] came up between me and the barriers and we touched each other in the last 20 metres. He was alongside the barriers and it was a close thing."
While Bouhanni could argue that he did not alter the line of his sprint per se, his discernible lean to the left as Matthews came between him and the barriers was never likely to be looked upon favourably by the race jury, who, led by Canadian Wayne Pomario, watched the sprint ten times before confirming their decision.
"It was a real sprint. If I'm declassified for that, then he should be too," Bouhanni said as he waited for the decision, according to L'Équipe. "He was the first to make contact."
On learning of his relegation to third place – the top three on the stage had a one-second gap on the rest of the peloton – an angry Bouhanni reportedly slammed his bike against the barriers in frustration, unwittingly writing the headline for L'Équipe's report on Wednesday morning. “Bouhanni: Fast and furious.”
Cofidis manager Yvon Sanquer later arrived on the scene and looked to defend his rider's actions in the sprint. "It's too severe," he said. "Everybody who rides a bike will tell you that Nacer has nothing to reproach himself for, he's not the one who provoked it."
The commissaires decided otherwise, declassifying Bouhanni for an irregular sprint and handing him a fine of 200 Swiss Francs. The stage honours fell to Matthews, who claimed his second win in three days of racing thus far in 2016 and extended his lead in the general classification to 14 seconds over Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
"Nacer changed his line, a bit too much, and pushed me against the barrier," Matthews said. "I came off Nacer's wheel and I was at full speed at 15 metres from the line. Without his action, I would have beaten him quite easily."
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