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It’s been a rough year for pugnacious French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), but he is still holding out on rainbow jersey dreams despite crashing out of the Vuelta a España over the weekend.
Bouhanni was among the top names from “Black Saturday” that saw such riders as Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Kris Boeckmans (Lotto-Soudal), and Jesper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing) pull out of the Spanish tour.
Bouhanni dislocated his elbow in the crash Saturday with about 50 kilometers to go — a painful injury by any measure, but early checkups suggest no serious damage. The French sprinter is still hoping to race the UCI Road World Championships next month in Richmond, Virginia.
“I’ve crashed this year more than any other season since the start of my career,” Bouhanni told L’Equipe. “At least nothing’s broken. I will be off the bike a few days, and hopefully return as quickly as possible. My season is not over. There are still the world championships.”
The 25-year-old Frenchman has had a tough year, crashing no less than six times, including major crashes at the French national championship and accidents that took him out of both the Tour de France and Vuelta. He had crashed two previous times in this Vuelta before Saturday’s third fall knocked him out of the race for good.
“They hit me from behind, and I fell on my right side,” Bouhanni said of the high-speed crash Saturday. “I couldn’t move my arm, and I could see the bone sticking out from the elbow. Doctors reinserted my elbow, and X-rays didn’t reveal any broken bones.”
Cofidis made a big bet on Bouhanni to win a stage at this year’s Tour, but the sprinter crashed out in stage 5. And with his exit from the Vuelta, where he was second to Sagan in stage 3, he ends the 2015 season without a stage victory in a grand tour. Last year, in his breakout season, he won three stages in the Giro d’Italia and two in the Vuelta.
Despite the bad luck, he’s still managed to win nine times this year, including two stages at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June and two stages at the Tour de l’Ain in his comeback from the Tour crash in August.
If Bouhanni can reach Richmond in top shape, he would be an outsider for the rainbow stripes. Last year in his elite men’s worlds debut, he surprised many on the challenging Ponferrada course, finishing third in the second chase group sprint for 10th behind winner Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland, sprinting just behind Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb.
The undulating classics-style course in Richmond could suit him even better than the 2014 worlds course.