Karol-Ann Canuel is reveling in the thought of competing in a selection of world-class races with the Boels Dolmans team in 2016. The Canadian all-rounder joined the Dutch squad after her previous team of two years Velocio-SRAM folded last year, and she expects to race where her abilities are best suited: in the mountains and time trials.
“I’m really excited about joining this team,” Canuel told Cyclingnews. “There are so many strong riders on the team. I think over the years I have shown I am a good teammate but when I get given a chance I can make something good happen personally.
“I suspect I'll be on the start for any race with climbing, and we'll decide as a team what the strategy is. Also, I think I’ll be a good asset for the team in the team time trial. It is a discipline I've really come to love the last few years.”
Canuel is the current Canadian time trial champion. She was also a member of the winning teams Specialized-lululemon (2014) and Velocio-SRAM (2015) in the team time trial at the World Championships. But when push comes to shove, she’s a cagey breakaway rider and climber, who has stolen stage wins at the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen, Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche and Gracia Orlova.
She is also proving to be a promising general classification rider having placed second overall in Thüringen and at the Tour de Bretagne Féminin. And she hopes to continue to improve in stage races through 2016.
“I have seen a progression in my riding especially in the past two years,” Canuel said. “I hope I will continue to improve this year. Of course the goal is to give 100 per cent in each race and try to win. This team is really good at knowing and using the strengths of each of their riders. I'm confident I can play a strong role in the team.”
Boels Dolmans is home to the peloton’s new world champion Lizzie Armitstead, who won the road race in Richmond, Virginia, last September. Canuel is looking forward to supporting Armitstead in a selection of races and says that having the rainbow jersey within the team brings added motivation.
“I think it is always exciting to have a world champion in the team,” Canuel said. “As far as what to expect, I'm not really sure. Lizzie will be marked pretty hard in the rainbow jersey, and she will stand out in the peloton. But it's not like she wasn't marked in the races last year, and she still won a lot.
“The rainbow jersey will just be extra motivation to show up ready to give it everything. It's exciting to know that jersey is part of your team. I'll try my best to work as hard as possible to set her up for the win when it's her days to lead, but I would have done that anyway.”
Canuel expects to be racing at the hillier races on the Women’s WorldTour like Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio in March and La Flèche Wallonne Féminine in April, and she would like to target a good performance at the Giro Rosa and defend her national title at the Canadian road championships. A priority is to race at the Olympic Games in Rio.
“In 2016, the big goal will be to represent Canada in the Olympics,” she said. “I already went to see the courses last year with the national team and both courses are definitely challenging. I think the Canadian team will be competitive. The time trial course looks really good for me. I'm thinking about that one a lot.”
Boels Dolmans met for their first team camp of the season in Calpe, Spain, in December but Canuel wasn’t able to attend. She will be at the second camp, also in Calpe, held from January 21-29.
“I haven’t been to camp yet so I haven’t met everybody,” Canuel said. “I know some of them because we see each other at races. There are also my old teammates from Specialized-lululemon, Evie Stevens and Chantal Blaak, who I’m really excited to race with again. I can't wait to meet everyone as a team.”