Nacer Bouhanni – who missed the 2016 Tour de France after a late-night punch-up and who has previously said that he'll turn to boxing once cycling career ends – has reportedly been involved in a violent confrontation with his own sporting director at Cofidis.
L’Equipe reports that an argument broke out with Roberto Damiani in the team bus after the Eschborn-Frankfurt one-day race that Bouhanni failed to finish at the start of the month.
The rider was apparently angered that Damiani decided against asking the team to wait after he’d been dropped.
According to team manager Cedric Vasseur, the matter has now been resolved but Bouhanni’s Tour de France spot is under serious threat. After four months and 22 days of racing, the Frenchman is still without a win for Cofidis and patience is wearing thin.
Vasseur told Cycling News: “At Frankfurt Nacer was dropped and lost two minutes to the front riders. He asked Roberto for help from other riders but you can’t close a gap of two minutes to a group that has riders like Kristoff and Gaviria. At that point, he was a little bit pissed but Roberto drove him back after and it was fine.
“Sometimes in races, when things are not going for you, you can lose your head a little bit. But that’s the past now. With Roberto and Nacer they had a good discussion after the race and Nacer understood that it wasn’t right to wait for him. Two minutes was too much to make up.”
Speaking about the season ahead, Vasseur said: “We want to take him to the Tour, of course we do. But we took him out of Milan-San Remo because if you want to race 300km then you need to be at the top level. If you’re not at the top level then you have nothing to really offer. We want to take Nacer to the Tour, but I’m expecting an improvement in his form.
“I want him to show us mental and physical improvements. He needs to show he’s going in the right way because the Tour de France is a three-week race. It’s the most difficult race of the year, the tension is high, it’s always fast, and it takes all your energy. If you start the Tour without a full tank of energy then you can’t succeed.”
He added: “My advice, and I already spoke to him back in December, is that if you want riders to work 100 per cent for you then you need to earn their respect. That’s part of being a leader. Being a leader isn’t just about having the biggest salary on the team. It’s a lot more than that. I honestly think that Nacer is trying his best but the new methods need time to work. Once they do, I really think he’ll find long-term stability.”