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Nacer Bouhanni apologises for 'unintentional' collision with Stewart

SAINTESMARIESDELAMER FRANCE FEBRUARY 13 Arrival Nacer Bouhanni of France and Team Arka Samsic Celebration Jakub Mareczko of Italy and CCC Team Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy and Team NTT Pro Cycling during the 5th Tour de La Provence 2020 Stage 1 a 1495km stage from Chteaurenard to SaintesMariesDeLaMer TDLP letourdelaprovence TDLP2020 on February 13 2020 in SaintesMariesDeLaMer France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Nacer Bouhanni of Arkéa-Samsic (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) has issued a public apology to Jake Stewart of Groupama-FDJ after riding him into the barriers at the Cholet-Pays de la Loire race, insisting the collision was "unintentional".

Bouhanni deviated from his line in Sunday’s sprint finish, moving left and making contact with Stewart, who touched the barriers with his shoulder but avoided crashing but had to stop pedalling.

The UCI commissaires at the race relegated Bouhanni, who’d crossed the line in third place, but the governing body announced on Monday that it had commenced further disciplinary proceedings against the Frenchman.

Neither Bouhanni nor his team made any public comment on the incident on Sunday but a statement was issued a couple of hours after the UCI’s announcement.

"I’m sorry for Jake Stewart,” Bouhanni said. “The sprint went like this: I see Elia Viviani open up and I want to take his wheel. I admit that my error was changing my line to go and get on his wheel.

“I don’t see Jake Stewart at that moment. When we come into contact with one another, I find myself off-balance. I save it as best I can so as not to crash.

“I just wanted to take the slipstream because it was a head-cross wind from the right. In no way was it intentional.”

In a social media post on Sunday, Stewart suggested the pair had exchanged words beyond the finish line, claiming Bouhanni had told him he had "no respect". 

Stewart posted a replay of the incident, writing: “Here's an educational video of what 'no respect' looks like.” He also accused the Frenchman of having “no brain cells”.

Bouhanni and his team will now nervously await the outcome of the UCI’s Disciplinary Commission’s investigation. 

He and other riders have been relegated for deviation in the past without suffering any further action. However, last year Dylan Groenewegen was handed a landmark nine-month for his part in the Tour de Pologne crash that left Fabio Jakobsen with life-threatening injuries.

Stewart was thankfully unharmed on Sunday, and the extent of Bouhanni’s punishment will indicate what sort of precedent has been set by the Groenewegen ruling.