Nacer Bouhanni says he is confident that he would have won the final stage of the Tour de la Provence is he wasn’t forced into the barriers by Davide Ballerini.
Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) only managed to take third behind eventual winner, Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and Ballerini (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), but said he believes he had the pace to take the win into Salon-de-Provence on Sunday (February 14).
According to cycling website Wielerflits Bouhanni said after the stage: “My arm and front wheel even hit the barriers, otherwise I would have won this last stage.”
The former French champion managed two third places in Provence to go with his solid second place at Étoile de Bessèges the week before, as he hopes to start winning against some of the bigger names in sprinting in this season.
Sébastien Hinault, sports director of Arkéa-Samsic, after viewing the images said: “I respect the official’s decision not to punish Ballerini, but I am convinced he made a mistake. He started his sprint two meters from the barriers and at the end Nacer cannot put his handlebars between him and the barriers.
“If Ballerini had been relegated, Nacer would have finished second, but without this mistake he would have competed for the win. That is why the disappointment is predominant at the moment. His elbow and wheel hit the fences, but as a sprinter he is not afraid.”
Bouhanni has been in a few controversial sprints in his time – one such moment was at the 2016 Paris-Nice when the Frenchman forced yellow jersey Michael Matthews (then Orica-GreenEdge) into the barriers, amazingly avoiding a crash.
Matthews was given the win and Bouhanni was disqualified.
Ballerini said after the stage: “It was not easy to position myself well in the final, but the team did a great job. I was well positioned by Julian Alaphilippe and Zdenek Stybar, but I lacked a little leg strength with ten meters to go. That made the difference.”