San Javier, Spain, August 30th, 2018. Perhaps we’ll all look back on that date as the day Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni resurrected his career.
The sprinter has accomplished very little in the last few years and had fallen out of favor at Cofidis. However, on stage six of the Vuelta a Espana, Bouhanni survived a challenging day of cross-winds and crashes to deliver a huge victory for himself.
In the final race to the line, Bouhanni went early, burst to the front and then by force of will managed to hold off Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Elia Vivani (Quickstep Floors) who had trouble with his train at the last roundabout.
“It was a really hard and very fast in the finale. I really determined to win today after what happened yesterday,’ said Bouhanni. “In the finale, I know how to win when I have the legs, I went from train to train and wheel to wheel.”
It was a moment of cathartic release for Bouhanni, who has a reputation within the peloton for overly aggressive and dangerous riding. He’s also been in the doghouse of new team manager Cedric Vasseur for the entire season. Vasseur has tried to light a fire under Bouhanni but until now the tough love routine seems to have backfired.
However, the combative Frenchman saved his season with a grand tour stage win that will raise his confidence and silence his many critics. It took him four years to get his second Vuelta win but it couldn’t have come at a better time. Bouhanni was even left off the Cofidis Tour de France roster in favor of fellow sprinter Christophe Laporte. Now, Bouhanni, who’s also an amateur boxer, can brighten up his wikipedia page.
The Frenchman put his ups and downs into a tweet right after the stage. We’re translating here but it’s close — “Falls. Deceptions. Sadness. Work. Happiness. That’s sport. Thanks to everyone who supported and encouraged me. Thank you to my teammates who work in the shadows. Lots of happiness this evening and the Vuelta isn’t over.”
Tonight, Nacer Bouhanni is the happiest man in San Javier, Spain.