Nacer Bouhanni has apologised to British rider Jake Stewart after shoving him into the barriers at the Cholet-Pays de la Loire on Sunday (March 28).
Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) was fighting to get into the lead in the final sprint when he drastically changed line, riding into the path of Stewart (Groupama-FDJ), as well as sticking out an elbow. Both riders somehow kept their bikes upright, but Bouhanni was subsequently disqualified. The sprint finish of the Frenc race was won by Elia Viviani (Cofidis).
Arkéa-Samsic released a short statement from Bouhanni that said: “I’m sorry for Jake Stewart. The sprint went as follows: I see Elia Viviani launching and I want to take his wheel. I admit that my mistake was to change course to take his wheel. I didn’t see Jake Stewart at this time.
“When we come into contact with each other I find myself unbalanced. I make up for it as best I can so as not to fall. I just wanted to take the slipstream [of Viviani] because the wind was coming from the right side, by no means was it intentional.”
This is not the first time that Bouhanni has made a potentially dangerous manoeuvre in a sprint finish. At Paris-Nice in 2016 the former French champion was relegated after he pinned Michael Matthews on the barriers with the Australian, who was in the yellow jersey at the time, having to take drastic action.
Stewart tweeted after the incident at Cholet-Pays de la Loire: “Yo Nacer Bouhanni, I would ask you what you were thinking…but you clearly have no brain cells,” Stewart said on Twitter after the race. “The ironic thing is, you told me I had ‘no respect’ after the finish. Here’s an educational video of what ‘no respect’ looks like…” The 21-year-old then linked a tweet with a video of the incident.
The UCI decided that the incident was serious enough for it to be referred to its Disciplinary Commission to place the appropriate sanction on Bouhanni.
The dangers of irregular sprints have been under the microscope in recent months following the incident between Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) at the Tour of Poland last year, which left Jakobsen with horrific injuries he is still recovering from. Groenewegen received a nine-month ban from the UCI with Jakobsen having to undergo multiple reconstruction surgeries. Likewise the security of roadside barriers has been reassessed following the incident in Poland, with Belgian races, E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Ghent-Wevelgem, the first to use newly designed safety barriers in the finishing straights.