French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) bounced back from his troubled season with a vengeance in the Vuelta a España on Thursday, taking his first WorldTour victory since the Volta a Catalunya last year.
At odds with his team management earlier this year in a situation which reached a crisis point following his non-selection for the Tour de France, Bouhanni’s victory in stage 6 of the Vuelta was, symbolically enough, taken in difficult racing circumstances as the bunch shattered into echelons in a windswept finale following a crash with 25km to go.
Only 24 hours earlier, Bouhanni was feeling the heat when he finished dead last on the hot and hilly stage 5 amidst strong denials from Cofidis that he had fallen out with his team manager during the stage. He later received a 30-second time penalty, allegedly for a pair of ‘sticky bottle’ incidents as he struggled in the heat of southern Spain.
The Frenchman’s return to victory in a Grand Tour, his first since the Vuelta four years ago, was a timely demonstration that Bouhanni’s innate class as a sprinter remains intact.
Bouhanni said he was very motivated to win, particularly following the latest controversy which he claimed had been entirely created by the media. He also pointed out that just as had happened four years ago when he won in Spain, his 2014 victory had come after a very difficult previous stage. Then, as now, he managed to triumph in a day with multiple splits in the peloton.
“They said that I had argued with my director and that’s completely false,” he said. “But I definitely wanted the win, and I got one four years ago, and I did it again in the echelons, on a tough stage as well. It’s amazing that I did it all over again.”
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