Bouhanni 2017 TDF photo twisted spoke
New team manager Cedric Vasseur wasted no time establishing who calls the shots at Cofidis. He just stripped down top sprinter Nacer Bouhanni’s train and reassigned his lead-out man.
Message to Bouhanni: get your shit together, rider smarter and start winning.
After reviewing the film from last season, Vasseur determined that a whole squad dedicated to Bouhanni wasn’t successful and even necessary.
“It’s a strategy that wasn’t working,” said Vasseur. “I noticed that he was letting himself get shut in by waiting to be led out in the last 200 meters. The team works during the race and in the end, it’s the sprinter’s instincts that make the different. Nacer doesn’t need six riders around him, nor does he need Christophe Laporte as a lead-out man to win a race of medium importance.”
Nice little body shot there with “race of medium importance.” The implication being that Bouhanni hasn’t won anything of note.
The overall quote is interesting because the book on Bouhanni is that he’s more than aggressive in trying to establish his position in the pushing and shoving that happens in the last thousand meters. An amateur boxer, he has a bad reputation for dangerous sprinting and punching people.
Vasseur’s statement almost sounds like an echo of what people were saying about Andre Greipel in last years’ Tour de France — that the German had become hesitant and lost his instincts. For all of Bouhanni’s aggressive theatrics, it seems he might not be pulling the trigger in the last 200 matters.
So Lapporte has left the train — and Vasseur didn’t stop there. He also cut Bouhanni’s father Karim off the team payroll. It parenting circles this would fit under the term “tough love.” Vasseur clearly feels that Bouhanni has been coddled at Cofidis and now is the time to throw him in the fire. It’s going to be intriguing to see how the sprinter responds to the change in attitude.
Based on Bouhanni’s response in the press, it sounds like he’s taking a “grin and bear it” point of view. Maybe the new plan works, maybe it doesn’t and he’ll approach the season with a grudging sense that Vasseur has him under the microscope.
“I’m under contract until 2019, we’re going to have to work together,” said Bouhanni. “Our ambitions are the same. That will be the most important. The objective is that, at the end, Cofidis win.”
We’ll soon get a chance to see if Vasseur can produce a more motivated Bouhanni. He has Dubai and Oman coming up fast, then big hopes for Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. Then there’s a return to the Tour de France, where Bouhanni has yet to make an impact.
What’s clear is that Vasseur has laid down the law and put Bouhanni on notice that the results better improve significantly. He’s hoping that quick, hard jab to Bouhanni’s pride will pay dividends at the finish line.