Bouhanni brawl: Who’s to blame?

Nacer Bouhanni is missing this year's Tour de France because he got in a brawl at a hotel with drunk guests.

Photo: TDW

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The opening week of this year’s Tour de France has given us plenty to enjoy. We’ve seen the resurgence of Mark Cavendish, watched Peter Sagan win with otherworldly confidence, and even debated a fun little controversy about sprints.

But there’s something absent. Yep, it’s Nacer Bouhanni.

In case you missed it, the fiery French sprinter is not at this year’s race because — follow me here — he underwent surgery to repair an infection on his hand that he injured while fighting with noisy drunk people who were staying adjacent to him at a hotel on the night before the French national championships. Whew.

On Sunday, Bouhanni said he plans to sue the four men who were involved in the hotel fight. Bouhanni also did an interview with the newspaper Le Republicain Lorrain, based near his home in Nancy. The newspaper story, titled “I am the victim,” claims Nacer Bouhanni, provided some details on the fight, as well as some really great quotes from the French sprinter.

OK, this version comes to us via Google translate, so bear with me. It’s the night before the French national road championships. Bouhanni is in his hotel room, but the rowdy guests next door keep banging on his wall and making noise. At some point, he goes next door to demand silence.

When the door opens, Bouhanni sees four men and three women in the room. When Bouhanni asks them to pipe down, one guy says “What there is little shit?” and pushes him. Someone throws a punch at Bouhanni, who ducks. A mighty four-on-one rumble ensues. At some point, Bouhanni cuts his hand.

Now onto the great quotes: 

“Fortunately I was able to dodge the blow, if it had been another cyclist, maybe he would still be in the hospital.”

“Boxing helped me do it. It could have gone much further, if I did not defend myself.”

“I want to restore the truth: I’m the victim in history. I just defended myself.”

The “if it were any other cyclist” line is really entertaining, because I simply cannot envision any other cyclist in the pro peloton getting into this predicament. It’s totally bonkers. Can you envision Esteban Chaves challenging four drunks to a round of fisticuffs?

For Bouhanni, of course, walloping drunks is totally on-brand. Over the past few years, Bouhanni has peppered us with the tough-guy image. He promotes his background as a boxer, and has said he hopes to pursue boxing after cycling. He shadowboxes after winning stages and throws aggressive elbows in the sprints. He openly beefs with team management. When he loses a big race, he rages on his handlebar. Google “Bouhanni” + “Jewelry store” and you’ll come up with another fun anecdote.

Can we blame the fight on Bouhanni’s tough-guy attitude? Probably not. I wasn’t at the hotel, so I have no reason to believe anything other than Bouhanni’s account. But I have my rational human assumptions, of course. And one of those tells me that a normal, non-Bouhanni human being, when confronted by seven noisy and aggressive drunks, would probably slink back to his hotel room and simply place a pillow over his head.

I am bummed that Bouhanni is out of the Tour. He’s cagy, and knows how to win stages with lots of twists and turns. In terms of flat-out speed, he’s still a level below Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, and André Greipel. He’s also a character, and pulls no punches during interviews. At the very least, his quotes about battling Sky, Movistar, and the other GC teams in the sprint finishes would stir things up.

So, perhaps the best way forward with Bouhanni is to simply present alternative solutions for dealing with rude hotel neighbors. If he finds himself in a situation on the eve of next year’s Tour, perhaps he’ll opt for a different course of action. After all, the largest race in France just isn’t the same without France’s angriest sprinter.

So, without further ado, here are my top-five ways for Nacer Bouhanni to deal with future hotel disturbances:

  1. Narc on them. The best way to deal with disruptive hotel neighbors is to call the front desk and tell the concierge that it sounds like the guests are breaking furniture, and that one guest bragged to you about stealing those mini bottles of shampoo.
  2. Doorbell ditch. You ring the door, then run away. Repeat ad nauseam.
  3. Serial killer note under the door. Write a note in crayon with creepy, horror movie-like penmanship, in which you discuss your previous victim’s affinity for yelling and screaming.
  4. Order pizzas. Tell them you’ll pick up the check for all of those pizzas if they agree to pipe down.
  5. Ask them kindly to be quiet. Then ask again, and again, and again.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.