A final decision on Nacer Bouhanni’s participation in the Tour de France will not be taken until Friday afternoon but the Frenchman struck an optimistic note about his prospects after descending from the rostrum at the pre-race presentation in Utrecht’s Lepenlenburg Park on Thursday evening.
Bouhanni was a faller in the finale of the French Championships at the weekend and in the immediate aftermath of the race posted a tweet stating that he would be forced to miss the Tour. A series of x-rays the following day confirmed that he had not sustained broken ribs as originally feared however, and he travelled to the Netherlands with the rest of his Cofidis teammates as planned.
“It’s getting better and better,” Bouhanni said on Thursday. “I gave myself a big fright because I thought I was going to have to miss the Tour because of that crash. But once I did all the x-rays, I was more positive and I just hope it keeps getting better day-by-day.
I feel that my condition is improving. I’ll take the final decision tomorrow [Friday], but my feeling is that it’s a lot better now.”
In terms of symptoms, however, there is often little discernible difference between the effects of a bruised rib and a broken one, and Bouhanni admitted that he still felt some pain with deep breathing.
“It’s my side that hurts, the road rash is fine,” he explained. “When I breathe, I still feel a little discomfort, but it’s a lot less than earlier in the week.”
Bouhanni has endured a difficult relationship with the Tour in his short professional career. The twin effects of a heavy crash and a bout of gastro-enteritis forced him to abandon during the opening week of his debut in 2013, while last year, he was overlooked by FDJ in favour of Arnaud Démare despite winning a hat-trick of stages at the Giro d'Italia.
That selection decision confirmed Bouhanni’s departure from FDJ to Cofidis, where he enjoys the status of outright team leadership, though his lead-out train left much to be desired in the opening months of the season. The fast man has picked up seven wins in the intervening period, however, including a brace of sprint victories at the Critérium du Dauphiné, but he is aware that the success of his – and, by extension, Cofidis’ – season rests primarily on what he can achieve in July.
“The night of the French Championships, my morale was at zero but it picked up again once I got the result of the scans and realised that, all going normally, I’d be able to go to the Tour,” said Bouhanni.
Cofidis manager Yvon Sanquer told L’Équipe that Bouhanni is “95% likely to start the Tour” but suggested that he is unlikely to be ready to sprint for the win in the Tour’s opening sprint skirmishes, though the rider himself was unperturbed by the possible effects of stage four’s cobbles on his injury.
“I’ve been told that I was going to have pain in my ribs for between seven and ten days after the crash, and the cobbled stage comes exactly ten days after my crash, so that’s ok,” he said. “In any case, I think the Tour is worth the pain.”
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