More controversy for Bouhanni as rival taken to hospital after Tour de l'Ain clash

Controversy seems to follow Nacer Bouhanni as closely as the Frenchman might track his Cofidis leadout men, and even the joy of a first victory in over three months carried its own baggage.

Bouhanni crossed the line first on stage 2 of the Tour de l'Ain on Thursday but the race jury spent several minutes reviewing video footage of the sprint as the Frenchman made contact in the finishing straight with a rider from the HB BTP-Auber93 team, Anthony Maldonado, who crashed heavily. Bouhanni was eventually cleared of any wrong doing and started today's stage in the race leader's yellow jersey.

The jury eventually took no action against the Cofidis star, but the Auber93 team were upset about the incident.

"Here are the stills we've just received," they wrote on Twitter that evening, posting three images from the incident.

"We'll let you make your own judgement. Ours is clear." The team eventually cancelled the images after being criticised in several responses.  

Maldonado was taken to hospital with a suspected broken arm, but the team later revealed that he had no broken bones.

He was nevertheless placed under general anaesthetic to clean out and stitch up some of his wounds. 

It’s the latest in a string of controversies involving Bouhanni, who was punished in last month's Tour de France for apparently lashing out at Jack Bauer in the closing phases of a sprint stage, and has in the past couple of years been relegated at Paris-Nice and Cyclassics Hamburg. 

"I have the label of 'bad boy' that sticks to my skin," he said after Hamburg. "Personally, I'm not trying to give off that image. Is it because I was a boxer that they think of me this way now? I do not know. My job is to win races, the rest..."

Bouhanni made little mention of the Tour de l'Ain incident in his post-race comments. "It's a relief to win again," he said, after tasting success for the first time since suffering a cranial trauma at the Tour de Yorkshire in late April.

"It was difficult for me, it's been a hard year. Mentally, I've been through quite a difficult period. I was starting to doubt because I was doing my best every day to get back to my true level. I was off the bike for 20 days in the month of May and they told me that my season was over. Getting to the start of the Tour de France was a victory, finishing it was another."

He later wished Maldonado a speedy recovery when speaking to L'Equipe but insisted he did not do anything wrong.

"We touched accidentally as I started my sprint. I was scared we'd both crash. I was lucky. I heard he has a nasty injury and I'm sorry for him."   

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