Nacer Bouhanni won the opening stage of the Etoile de Bessèges in southern France. The FDJ-BigMat rider is a sprinter and this time last year I wrote about his impressively low position on the bike (being short helps too). Now in his second year as a pro it’ll be interesting to see how he does, whether this was a lucky win or if he can follow it up with more wins and take on bigger names. Especially as the team has sprinters Yauhueni Hutarovich and U-23 World Champion Arnaud Demarre too.
As much as his future is up for grabs, the Frenchman’s past is interesting. He sounds like a bit of hard nut. From the Vosges mountains near the German border, he started off boxing thanks to his father but switched to cycling in his mid-teens. After school he became a policeman, indeed he won the French gendarme cycling championships in 2009 and in 2010 was army champion. His changed career soon after since he turned pro aged only 20.
His personal website (in French) recounts how a run in with Alessandro Petacchi in last year’s Tour of Turkey. The Italian got annoyed with Bouhnani and punched him, only to get caught and penalised by the race officials. But Petacchi got word Bouhanni could box and quickly came back to apologise to the rider 15 years his junior.
Dekker in new transparency bid
Talking of boxers… Dutchman Thomas Dekker is attempting a comeback and has landed a contract as the face, or body, of an underwear brand called Cavello. He’d promise to ride clean and be transparent but perhaps this is a step too far. Jokes aside, we’ll see how he does this year and whether he can swap the “ex-doper” label for something else, whether winning or supporting team mates at Garmin-Barracuda.
Project 1t4i reveal all
Project 1t4i is the new name for the squad that rode under the name of Skil-Shimano last year and they’ve yet to reveal their names. The team’s sponsor hasn’t been unveiled yet because it is merging with another company and branding gurus are working on a new name for the enlarged company. I gather we’ll know more in a few weeks’ time. But for now 1t4i means one team with “inspiration, improvement, integrity and innovation”.
We’ll see how the team inspires and innovates on the road but they’re taking a good approach to public relations. I’ll get it in early to explain that PR is just that, presentation. But pro cycling these days is often an exercise in corporate communication via sport so the PR element is part of the game. Recently German broadcaster ARD named 1t4i rider Marcel Kittel in a report into the practices of Dr Andreas Franke, a physician from Erfurt in Germany. Other athletes were named, indeed the German media is focused on speed-skater Claudia Pechstein and 800 metre runner Nils Schumann.
But 1t4i came up with their response, the full text is on the team website. In the space of 665 words the team manage to cover every base possible:
- Who: they mention Kittel but also name John Degenkolb and Patrick Gretsch.
- When: they state the doctor was treating them back in 2008
- Why: it was apparently a therapeutic treatment provided by an Olympic doctor
- Where: the doctor is named and the blood irradiation technique is even explained as being used in Eastern Europe.
- What: the treatment is explained in more detail
- How: the context of the medical visits is given
- How much: there’s even a statement that no money was given to the doctor
Again, to repeate the PR point made above, this is only a presentational matter but as explanations go, this is an innovation in itself. Over the years teams have been slow to react, often issuing basic statements about “awaiting events” and being “serene” or “tranquil” but here the response is much less passive. Before you add a comment saying this is no proof of riding clean, I agree. But it’s proof of being able to communicate.