Nacer Bouhanni’s omission from the FDJ.fr team for the forthcoming Tour de France would appear to indicate that his future lies away from Marc Madiot’s squad, but the Frenchman has reiterated that he will not make a decision on his destination for 2015 until after Sunday’s national championships road race at Futuroscope.
Bouhanni’s contract expires at the end of the season and after missing out on a place at the Tour – and Milan-San Remo – to fellow young fast man Arnaud Démare, he has been heavily linked with a move to fresh pastures. On Monday, Madiot told AFP that, as things stand, he does not have the budget to keep Bouhanni on his roster in 2015.
“I’ve decided I’m not going to say anymore about this subject until after the French championships on Sunday evening. For now, I haven’t signed anywhere,” Bouhanni told L’Équipe.
In announcing his Tour line-up on Monday, Madiot said that he had held a “frank and direct” phone conversation with Bouhanni during the Route du Sud, to inform him of his decision.
“Marc Madiot called me four minutes before the official communiqué was sent out,” Bouhanni said. “To be honest, I didn’t get a real explanation and I didn’t look for one either. He told me that I hadn’t been picked and I said, ‘ok.’ Why lay it on thick when the choice had been made? I decided to respect their decision and not to try and find out why.”
Although he acknowledged his disappointment at missing out on a second Tour de France – illness brought his debut to a premature halt in 2013 – Bouhanni was stoical in his acceptance of the decision. “I’m not going to cry about it because I wasn’t picked. I know that there are other Tours de France ahead of me.”
The 23-year-old refused to be drawn on whether it would have been feasible for him to share sprinting duties with Démare at the Tour, but he pointed out that he had held up his end of the bargain by winning eight races so far this season, including three stages of the Giro d’Italia. “They ask me to win races and that’s what I’ve done. The rest isn’t my responsibility.”
Madiot’s rationale for excluding Bouhanni was based partly on concerns that he had expended too much energy in completing the Giro, and there was a hint of gallows humour in the young sprinter’s response. “Soon, I’m going to have to apologise for winning races,” Bouhanni said.
Both Bouhanni and Démare will be in FDJ’s line-up at the French championships on Sunday, and Madiot hinted that a decision will be made on who leads the team after they reconnoitre the course on arrival at Futuroscope. In 2012, of course, both riders contested the finishing sprint, with Bouhanni beating a disappointed Démare into second place in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux.
Démare, however, has won the sprint to lead the line for FDJ in the bunch finishes at the Tour and he was keen to look ahead to his debut in La Grande Boucle. “It’s the media who’ve made a meal of it,” Démare told L’Équipe of the internal competition with Bouhanni. “I’m going there to discover the Tour and all the ingredients are there for it to go well. My regular lead-out will be there with me, they have confidence in me and I’m on form.”