FDJ manager Marc Madiot has revisited Nacer Bouhanni's fractious departure for Cofidis and acknowledged that it was always going to be difficult to find room for him to remain on the same team as fellow French sprinter Arnaud Démare.
Bouhanni opted to leave for Cofidis after losing out to Démare for a place on the FDJ roster at both Milan-San Remo and the Tour de France in 2014. Madiot hinted that tensions dating back to their amateur days meant that it would have been impossible to select both.
"We thought about bringing the two of them but there's such an attitude between them, from before they were with us, that it was difficult," Madiot told L'Équipe. "I know well that we're in France and we need a duel, a new Anquetil-Poulidor. There's always tension between the two of them because they're on the same terrain, the sprint.
"They were two cocks in the henhouse, that's all, and that's normal. That made them grow and made everyone else on the team grow, because they had to be up to the level. They fed off one another and the team fed off them too. But everything lent itself to them going their separate ways."
Bouhanni's imminent departure for Cofidis was an open secret from the time of the French Championships in June, where he was beaten into second place by Démare, although he was later selected for the FDJ team for the Vuelta a España in August.
He abandoned the Vuelta after landing two stage victories but Madiot refused to select him for any more races in 2014 despite the entreaties of French national coach Bernard Bourreau, who had designated him as a leader for the World Championships road race in Ponferrada. Madiot explained that he had already built a roster for the GP d'Isbergues around Démare and could not change his plans to suit Bouhanni.
"I never stopped Nacer Bouhanni from preparing for the Worlds, contrary to what might have been written here or there," Madiot said. "He abandoned the Tour of Spain with full knowledge of the facts. I called him and he knew very well that he wouldn't race afterwards so he could very well have finished the Vuelta to prepare his Worlds. He was the one who decided to leave, I wasn't the one who imposed it upon him. Maybe he thought that I would change my mind, but it was out of the question."
Madiot insisted that he would have no problem in speaking to Bouhanni at race starts in 2015 – "If he wants to salute me, I'll salute him" – and he downplayed the claim that decisions at FDJ were usually relayed by email rather than by face-to-face conversation, pointing out that other teams had a more dictatorial approach.
"If you go on a foreign team, they tell you: 'Do this, do that, basta.' And you have the right to shut your mouth, it's even written in the contract," Madiot said. "Steve Morabito told us that at BMC there were nine pages on what riders did and didn't have the right to say. For example, they couldn't congratulate an adversary on the finish line: that would be giving publicity to the competition."
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