French cyclist Nacer Bouhanni speaks out about racist abuse

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BRUSSELS — Nacer Bouhanni’s haters don’t care that he is a former French cycling champion, or even that he was born and raised in France.

The Arkea-Samsic team rider has been subjected to a torrent of racist insults over the past week, many of them urging him to leave France and go to Africa.

Bouhanni has decided it’s time to speak out.

“Know that I was born in France and that I will file a complaint because I’ve been enduring this and kept silent for too long, but this time I will not let go,” he wrote this week.

Bouhanni, a hot-tempered rider with an history of race incidents, was disqualified following an illegal move at the one-day Cholet-Pays de la Loire on March 28. Cycling governing body UCI cited him for dangerous conduct after he pushed Jake Stewart into the barriers during the final sprint and referred the incident to its disciplinary commission.

Bouhanni admitted his mistake but said the move was not intentional. Since then, racist insults have been flying.

Bouhanni, a rider with North African heritage who won the French national championships in 2012, published screenshots of some of the messages he has received. His team has released a statement, saying it “deplores and strongly denounces all these acts of racism.”

In an interview with L’Equipe newspaper published Tuesday, Bouhanni said he has been abused throughout his career. He said he did not speak out earlier because the topic remains a “taboo,” and for fear he would appear like someone trying to victimize himself.

But the latest series of insults – some of them calling him to a “terrorist” – were too much too take.

“I was born in France. I love my country. I was French champion at the age of 21. When I was on the podium with La Marseillaise, it was one of the most beautiful moments in my career,” said the 30-year-old rider. “It’s sad to read all this, people wanting me to end up in jail.”

Asked whether he also suffered from racist attitudes in the predominantly white peloton, Bouhanni said it had never happened “directly” and he had never had any such issues within the various teams he rode for.

Bouhanni, however, filed a lawsuit against Stef Clement after the former pro rider-turned-pundit claimed during the 2019 Tour de France that the French cyclist made his team pork free and did not want to work with women on race days because of his religious beliefs.

“I received a lot of racist messages following these insinuations,” Bouhanni said. “I have filed a complaint, but I am still waiting for the justice (system) to get back to me.”

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads

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ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”