Nacer Bouhanni’s complicated season continued at the Tour de Pologne, with the French sprinter forced to abandon the WorldTour stage race after stage 5 due to gastroenteritis. Cofidis team management, however, are confident that he will be able to recover in time for the Vuelta a España, his major objective for the final part of the 2018 season.
Bouhanni's failure to secure a place in the Cofidis team for the Tour de France was enshrouded in controversy after a series of well-publicized disagreements.
Bouhanni told Cyclingnews at the start of the Tour de Pologne that he was building his form steadily and was looking forward to the Vuelta a España, where he had won stages in 2014. However he struggled to compete in the three bunch sprints at the Tour de Pologne, with his best result 13th on stage 1 in Krakow.
Cofidis directeur sportif Roberto Damiani said that Bouhanni’s latest exit was in no way planned but should not affect his participation in the upcoming Vuelta a España, which start on Saturday, August 25 in southern Spain.
"It wasn’t expected, but after the first couple of stages he could barely eat and he had real problems with gastro. So we decided not to take any risks because he was really not well and the Vuelta a España is barely 15 days away," Damiani told Cyclingnews on the final day of the race.
"The idea was to do these last two stages and work on his endurance. But if you’re ill and you're working on your endurance, you can end up doing yourself a lot more damage.
"I think he's done the right thing, and we made a joint decision on it," Damiani said, perhaps unintentionally underlining that any communication breakdown between rider and management earlier this year was behind them.
"It wasn't just him who had it, there was another rider who went down with the same illness, though not so badly, and a member of the staff, too. It happens."
Damiani said he had talked to Bouhanni after his abandon and the rider was slowly but surely improving and on Friday the aim was to start training again "for maybe an hour, an hour and a half, training for a few days in the Vosges. He's a sprinter, but he's got to get over the climbs and this is the Vuelta a España we're talking about."
Bouhanni's objective is a stage win in Spain, and Damiani is confident Bouhanni can be successful.
"We already said it was going to [Christophe] Laporte for the Tour and Bouhanni for the Vuelta, it was a technical decision," the Italian said.
He was more guarded about revealing Cofidis’ specific line-up apart from Bouhanni, but explained that "it's clear that a sprinter like Bouhanni needs a lead-out man, maybe Geoffrey Soupe or someone else could do it."
Cofidis will target stage wins than the overall classification and Bouhanni is expected to go all the way to Madrid. Damiani points out that Cofidis started and finished the Tour de France with all eight riders.
"I always say you should never, never start a Grand Tour saying that you plan to pull out," he warned.
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