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A controversial and highly unusual development occurred Wednesday on the third stage of the Eneco Tour with the FDJ team losing patience with its rider David Boucher and sending him home from the race.
Boucher was involved in the day’s breakaway move, going off the front with Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).
He was on television for quite some time and gained the squad publicity but, as it turned out, that was not what it wanted.
“Thank you to everyone cheering for me. I have to go home now. Pity. My team did not want me to go in the escape,” he wrote afterwards in Flemish.
Speaking to the French site VeloPro.net, team manager Marc Madiot explained why tension erupted between the team and the rider and why he had been taken out of the event.
“Since Monday’s race the instructions were clear,” he said. “David Boucher had to protect Arnaud Démare. He was called to order by Martial Gayant on Monday and I called him in person yesterday at the moment of the briefing.
“He decided again not to listen to instructions today, he is therefore expelled. Riders are paid, and paid well, to stick to instructions, happy or not happy. In doing what he did, he has not respected his leader.”
Boucher was born 35 years ago in France but became a naturalised Belgian citizen midway through 2013. He’s had a somewhat modest career, with his results including first place on a stage of the 2004 Tour de la Somme plus various other placings in smaller races.
He was eighth overall in the Three Days of De Panne in 2013, and placed seventh this season in the Belgian time trial championships.
A former competitor with teams including Omega Pharma-Lotto, who he raced with for one year in 2011, he moved to FDJ in 2012 and has been racing there since as a domestique.
Things have however unravelled, with Boucher being told a few days ago that he would not be retained next season. That appears to have prompted him to rebel against team orders, perhaps trying to gain attention via breakaway efforts and to secure a deal for 2016.
Boucher was involved in another break on Monday and, having been admonished for that, decided to go for it again on Wednesday. That could end up being his final race with the squad.
Asked if he will compete again this season, Madiot didn’t give anything away.
“Is his season is over? I’ll decide when I feel like it,” said Madiot.
“We always want that this would end well,” he added, presumably speaking about a rider’s departure from the team. “I still have the right to choose my riders for next year. It’s a shame it does not respect this choice.”
Boucher appears to be defiant.
“I’m proud of myself and I’m not alone,” he stated in French on Twitter.
“I’m very happy to have been supported by all the DS [directeurs sportifs] and riders in the peloton, thanks to you. #Solidarity and bravo to Arnaud [Demare] for his second place.”
The latter was beaten by Tom Boonen (Etixx – Quick-Step) in the sprint. The unanswered question is, if Boucher had followed team orders, if his assistance might have made the difference between the runner-up slot and the top step of the podium.
That’s impossible to answer, but it’s a question that both Boucher and the team may well end up pondering in the days ahead.