After two years of competing on the WorldTour level with Cannondale, Guillaume Boivin is hoping a fresh start with US Continental team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies will breathe new life into his career and reignite the winning results he grew accustomed to posting as a U23 rider.
So far things have been going well for the 25-year-old Canadian who famously tied Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) for third place at the 2010 U23 World Championships road race.
“I really like it,” Boivin told Cyclingnews this week during training camp along the Pacific coast in Oxnard, California. “It's fun to be back on a North American team with some faces I know. It kind of reminds me of my years in Spidertech – more like a family feeling, just guys having fun on the bike. So it's been really good to me and real fun so far.”
Boivin started his professional career in 2010 when Spidertech was still a Continental team. He followed Steve Bauer's Canadian-based program as it moved to the Pro Continental level in 2011, but he had to find a new ride when the team folded following the 2012 season.
He signed with Cannondale for two years and rode with the Italian WorldTour team of Peter Sagan through last season, competing in the Vuelta a España twice and Paris-Roubaix once. But when the Italian squad merged in the off-seaason with Garmin-Sharp, Boivin was one of the riders left off the roster of the new Cannondale-Garmin combine. Although he took multiple top-10 finishes for Cannondale, his last win came in 2013 during stage 2 of the Tour de Beauce in Quebec.
“After Spidertech I put a lot of pressure on myself because as a U23 rider I had great results and I was hoping to translate that straightaway to the WorldTour,” he said. “I had a really good team with Spidertech, but then when I went to the WorldTour I kind of got lost and put a lot of pressure on myself to win some bike races, and It just didn't work out.”
Boivin, who moved back home to Montreal this year after living in Lucca, Italy, while at Cannondale, hopes to thrive in Optum's more relaxed environment.
“I just kind of want to get back to why I did it: to have fun and win some bike races without over-thinking it,” he said. “When you start over-thinking it, I get too stressed or whatever. But if you win bike races the rest is going to come by itself. So I'm not going to chase it. I'm just going to focus on really enjoying riding my bicycle.”
While some riders have trouble adjusting to a division three team after competing in the world's biggest races on the WorldTour, Boivin appears happy to be back with a North American team among riders he's known for years. During an interview that took place on the back bumper of a team car in Oxnard, Boivin said there's no ego involved with his return to the Continental level.
“We're still in there to try and win some bike races,” he said. “I don't think it would be a good way to approach it. I don't care. I see we have some really big opportunities thanks to our sponsor that helps to put us in some big races. And we'll just try to go win them. That doesn't change. It's bike racing, you know, so actually it's just more fun.
“The set up for me has been real great. I've seen some young guys and some old friends I haven't seen in awhile, so it's been pretty cool. We'll go to some pretty good races this year, so I'll try to win those and then we'll see who has an ego problem after that.”
But first Boivin will have to find his place on a team that has no shortage of options for the fast finishes. Eric Young has been the team's man for the pure sprints since he joined Optum in 2013, and the team also has Ryan Anderson, Brad Huff and newcomer Pierrick Naud.
Last season at the Tour of California while working for Sagan, Boivin finished one spot ahead of Young during sprint finishes at the end of stages 1 and 4. But the Canadian said Young will be the team's go-to guy for the pure sprints, and Boivin, who has competed in the California tour five times, will focus on the harder stages.
“I think we're going to have to work it out through the year,” he said. “Obviously, Eric is a super fast sprinter. Just what I've seen from the training here, he's got amazing power and an amazing kick. I might be suited more for some harder stages or later in a stage race because I've got more mileage in my legs, so maybe I can be fresher after a couple days of racing. I'm working on trying to get over the climbs better and see what we can do with 'Randy' (Ryan Anderson) on some of the the harder race days.”
In fact, Young will likely benefit from the added firepower Boivin can supply to Optum's sprint train.
“I think it's no question when it's a pure, pure sprint finish, Eric is pretty fast, so we'll try to use the experience I've gained in the past riding at Cannondale and at Spidertech to help him deliver the big win on those pure sprint finishes,” Boivin said.
Optum will get its first chance to work out the sprint finishes in Portugal later this month at the UCI 2.1 Volta ao Algarve, a race where Boivin is hoping to post his first top result for his new team.
“I've done a big winter and I think I'm in pretty good form, so I'm really hoping for something there,” he said. “I've seen that the first day there is probably a sprint day, but it's pretty lumpy all day so I think that will be a really hard day. We'll see what happens with the other boys, too. And I think the last day is a sprint, close to 200km after a hard week, so I'm really hoping for some fireworks already in the first bike race of the season.”
Motivation and confidence, it seems, are not in short supply for Boivin this year.
“I'm real pumped for the season,” he said. “I'm really happy, and that's already a good start.”