There aren’t many professional cyclists with a section titled “Incidents” on their Wikipedia page. Nacer Bouhanni has many incidents.
There was the time he hit Jack Bauer at the 2017 Tour de France. And the time he had to be physically separated from Rudy Barbier after Barbier won Paris-Bourges. Or the time he was accused of a “violent altercation” with his own director, Roberto Damiani, at Eschborn-Frankfurt. The list goes on.
There are only so many headlines one can write about fistfights and pugilism and a history as a boxer before you start to wonder if such things belong in bike racing.
On Sunday, Bouhanni was disqualified from the one-day Cholet-Pays de la Loire, won by Elia Viviani, after swinging hard from the right side of his leadout man to the far left, pinning Groupama-FDJ’s Jake Stewart against the barriers.
Stewart hit the barrier, leaned against it, but managed to keep it upright. He went from contesting the sprint to finishing in 29th.
Despite Bouhanni’s long list of “incidents,” the penalty for this latest dangerous move was a disqualification. The maneuver could very easily have resulted in a major crash.
This stands in stark contrast to the penalty for a nearly identical move from Dylan Groenewegen, which had far more disastrous consequences but was, at its core, not any worse than what Bouhanni did on Sunday.
The jury’s decision at Cholet-Pays de la Loire further amplifies the arbitrary feel of Groenewegen’s nine-month ban. Groenewegen’s maneuver at the Tour of Poland was no more (and possibly less) egregious, but the outcome was compounded by a complete failure of the barriers, resulting in a disastrous crash and horrible injuries. The disparity in penalty, given nearly identical transgressions, is jarring.
Under the current rules, the UCI clearly penalizes outcomes, not actions.