Cofidis manager Yvon Sanquer has expressed his regret at Nacer Bouhanni's absence from the Tour de France but said that the sprinter had no option but to withdraw from the race due to the hand injury he sustained in a late-night altercation with a fellow hotel guest on the eve of the French Championships road race at the weekend.
Bouhanni received four stitches in his right hand after he was reportedly involved in a fight with a drunken guest who was making noise at the hotel where the Cofidis team was lodged ahead of Sunday's race. Although Bouhanni abandoned Sunday's race in Vesoul, Cofidis insisted at the time that his participation in the Tour was not in doubt.
Bouhanni's wound later became infected, however, and he underwent surgery on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning, Cofidis issued a statement to announce that the 25-year-old would be replaced in the Tour line-up by Nicolas Edet.
"Yesterday, the pain became more marked, almost unbearable and he consulted some specialists in Nancy," Sanquer told L'Équipe. "The injury had been badly dealt with in the emergency room, and the wound needed to be cleaned. That required surgery and appropriate treatment.
"It wasn't feasible to come and start the Tour de France. He wouldn't have been capable of being operational in the first part of the Tour. Against our will, we've taken the decision that Nacer Bouhanni won't ride."
It marks the second time in as many years at Cofidis that Bouhanni's Tour has been ruined by injury. A year ago, he started the race despite falling heavily in the French Championships but was forced out following another crash early on stage 5. Bouhanni's Tour appearance during his time at FDJ came in 2013, when he abandoned through illness in the opening week.
Bouhanni's ill-fortune this season has not been confined to his Tour build-up. Despite winning eight races, including four at WorldTour level, the Frenchman suffered disappointment when he slipped his chain during the final sprint at Milan-San Remo, eventually placing fourth in a race won by his long-time rival and former teammate Arnaud Démare (FDJ).
"It's true that it's the second Tour in a row that's started badly for us, that's seen us deprived of Nacer. But high-level sport is about the ability to bounce back. There's no question of laying down arms," said Sanquer, who added that it was too early to redraw Bouhanni's programme for the remainder of the season. "We'll talk about it soon. We have to wait and see how his state of health develops. We'll know more in a few days."
Didier Rous, the Cofidis directeur sportif who works closely with Bouhanni, described his absence from the Tour as a "catastrophe" and said that the team, which was built around the fast man, would have to rework its approach on the hoof for the coming three weeks.
"It's a catastrophe for him, because it's the second year that it's happened to him, and for the Cofidis team, because it had built its whole strategy around him," Rous told Velopro. "He'll be replaced by Nicolas Edet, who was third at the Route du Sud. That will force us to race differently, but it's a race where the attackers will have few opportunities since it will largely be made up of sprints or finales between the GC riders. In any case, we have to adapt."
Rous echoed Sanquer when he noted that it simply was not feasible for Bouhanni to attempt to start the Tour in his current state. "We don't know if the stitches were badly applied or if the wound was badly cleaned but it's a significant infection, which has forced him to stay in hospital for two days and receive treatment for several more," Rous said.
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