In the end, there was only rage for Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) at Milan-San Remo, murderous, doomed rage. 200 metres out, the Frenchman had appeared poised for victory before a a slipped chain ruined his sprint and he came home an incredulous fourth.
On wheeling to a halt a couple of hundred yards past the finish line, the Frenchman unclipped from his bike and flung it against the ground with as much force as he could muster after 300 kilometres of racing. Quite a lot, as it turned out. His Orbea bounced a couple of times before landing in the middle of the road.
The guttural cry of ‘Merde!’ that followed could be heard above all the commotion in the finish area. They could probably hear it all along the Riviera, over the other side of the Tuchino and all the way back at the start in Milan.
Bouhanni staggered in a confused semi-circle before seeking out the desolate shade of a crash barrier on the Via Roma. Sitting on the curb, he held his head in his hands, trembling with anger and disappointment.
One thoughtful fan scooped the bike out of harm’s way, away from the oncoming race cars, and propped it against the barrier alongside Bouhanni. Another, braver, tifoso ventured to offer him a consolatory tap on the top of the helmet.
Still attempting to make sense of his dismay, Bouhanni didn’t seem to notice. His disgust could only have been amplified by the fact that the race winner was his former teammate and eternal rival Arnaud Démare (FDJ), who became the first French winner of Milan-San Remo since Laurent Jalabert in 1995.
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