Nacer Bouhanni has defended his reputation amid his UCI disciplinary case, insisting he is not 'a thug' and that he has a 'clear conscience' regarding his collision with Jake Stewart at the recent Cholet-Pays de la Loire.
The Arkéa-Samsic sprinter also addressed Stewart, who did not crash but suffered a broken hand, telling him that sprinting is 'not the Care Bears'.
Bouhanni, who issued a short statement after the UCI announced it was taking action, posted a longer statement to social media on Friday evening.
It was directed at the French journalist Patrick Chassé, who had discussed the incident on the French TV channel La Chaîne L’Equipe.
"You can say I’m a sprinter who takes risks, who doesn’t give up his position, who’s aggressive, who does everything to win... You can say anything you want, but to throw me into the barriers for trying to win a cycling race, that’s pure madness," Bouhanni wrote.
"Actively wanting to injure someone and put my rival’s life at risk as well as my own, that’s crazy talk."
Bouhanni has acquired a controversial reputation over the years, with the Cholet incident following similar relegations for irregular sprinting at Paris-Nice and the Hamburg Classic in 2016. He missed that year’s Tour de France after injuring his hand in a hotel fight, while he was sanctioned at the following Tour for lashing out at another rider.
"I’m not a thug," Bouhanni wrote, once again defending what he perceives as an unfair reputation.
"I’m a sportsman who became a father a few months ago, so believe me that, if only for my child, I would never take such risks consciously. I just wanted to win the race. Unfortunately it ended badly. But in this misfortune there is a lot of luck because in reality disaster was avoided."
Bouhanni also used his response to Chassé to address Stewart. Having started his earlier statement with an apology to the 21-year-old, he was not so conciliatory this time.
Bouhanni appears to have taken issue with an interview Stewart gave to Rouleur in which he regarded the apology as half-hearted and recounted how he saw his life flash before his eyes when Bouhanni veered left and pinned him against the barriers. Although he broke his hand and will miss the Tour of Flanders, he felt lucky to have stayed upright and avoided more serious injury.
"Concerning Jake Stewart, he is young and he will do other sprints - for a long time, I hope. If he really saw his life flash like he said in that interview, I would advise him to give up sprinting.
"Everyone knows there are risks, unfortunately. This is not the Care Bears; sometimes there are crashes, but that’s part of cycling.
"And I repeat one last time, I never wanted to to make him crash. I have no interest in wanting to put us in danger."
Bouhanni insisted he was not overly worried about the threat of a ban from the UCI, despite Dylan Groenewegen's landmark nine-month ban seemingly setting a precedent in rulings on irregular sprinting.
The Frenchman took particular issue with Chassé noting that he only publicly commented on the matter and apologised after the UCI announced it was taking action.
"I have a clear conscience and, whatever decision is taken, that’s the most important thing for me," Bouhanni wrote.
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