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Bouhanni’s latest sprint dust-up draws ire of fellow pros

Was Nacer Bouhanni too aggressive in stage 1 of the Dauphiné? Fellow professionals feel the Frenchman was too rough in the final sprint.

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Nacer Bouhanni channeled his inner Muhammad Ali during Monday’s wild sprint finale at Critérium du Dauphiné, and his fellow pros called him out for it. It’s rare for pro cyclists to publicly criticize their competitors, but many saw Bouhanni’s aggressive head-butting as too much.

Cofidis’s fiery Frenchman already has a growing reputation of turning sprint finales into boxing rings. On Monday, he was aggressively fighting for position, banging shoulders and leaning on Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff.

Other riders have been kicked out of races for similar transgressions, but race judges did not relegate Bouhanni, a former amateur boxer who dedicated his victory to the recently deceased Ali.

Other pros in the peloton were not impressed, and broke ranks to call out Bouhanni’s ever aggressive sprinting on social media. Here are a few examples:

Lotto – Soudal’s André Greipel, not racing at the Dauphiné, posted an impromptu Twitter poll: Fair Play sprint? Seventy-four percent responded no.

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Greg Van Avermaet, the typically affable Belgian hard-man, suggested it was “over the top.”

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Koen de Kort, who is racing this week for John Degenkolb, also said it “was over the limit.”

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Bouhanni remained unapologetic. When he nearly ran Matthew Michaels (Orica – GreenEdge) into the fences at Paris-Nice, he said, “I don’t race to be popular.”

On Monday, he was banging shoulders with Kristoff as the sprint ramped up. Katusha was leading out the peloton with 1km to go, and Bouhanni was trying to muscle in on his position. Kristoff fended him off, but later crossed wheels with his lead-out man and could not effectively open up his sprint. The Norwegian held his temper, and was diplomatic at the line.

“I had to fight with Bouhanni to get to my teammate’s wheel. I was on Jacopo Guarnieri, but then when I went to start my sprint I touched his wheel and almost crashed so my sprint was over,” Kristoff said. “At least I didn’t crash. I’m not sure exactly what happened as I went straight into him, but again I’m glad I didn’t crash. I felt OK today so it’s a pity I could not finish better.”

Bouhanni remained defiant Monday, insisting he did nothing wrong, and shrugged off the contact as typical argy-bargy of a bunch sprint.

“It’s the sprint, you don’t give out presents,” Bouhanni said. “I wanted to keep the wheel of my lead-out man, Kristoff wanted the same thing. I saw that we were using up a lot of energy. I preferred to hold off and tuck in behind Kristoff.”

Tuesday’s uphill finale will be too hard for the sprinters, and Wednesday’s stage features a second-category kicker in the final hour, so the sprinters might have to wait until Thursday’s 176km run to Belley to go to round 2.

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