2014 for Nacer Bouhanni has been a year of contract negotiations with several teams that has culminated in him swapping the blue kit of his FDJ team, where he had ridden since 2010, for the red jersey of Cofidis.
The 24-year-old won three stages and the points classification at this year's Giro d'Italia but was left out FDJ’s Tour de France team in favour of fellow fast-man Arnaud Démare which all but sealed his departure.
Bouhanni was initially disappointed to be left off the team for the Tour but visited the race when it passed nearby his home village in the Vosges.
While Bouhanni admitted that several WorldTour teams such as Astana, Omega Pharma Quick Step and Ag2r La Mondiale all expressed an interest in signing him, Bouhanni explained to Cyclism'Actu that he doesn't believe it was a gamble to sign for a Pro-Continental team instead as it allowed him to bring along key teammates.
"Many people talk about it but it's the opposite," Bouhanni said of his decision to sign for Cofidis. "I'll be in better conditions than at FDJ. I have a tight group around me. That's what I am focused on and that is most important. We race the same races as if we were in the WorldTour.
"It is Paris-Nice, the Dauphiné, the Tour de France, the Vuelta and all Belgian classics. So I do not see how this is disturbing. Access to WorldTour can be a goal next year."
Bouhanni will close out his tenure with FDJ at the Vuelta a España where he will look for a stage win but first will make a return to racing at the EnecoTour having enjoyed a race-free July.
"I go to the Vuelta with the goal of winning a stage," said Bouhanni, who isn’t keen to take it easy in the final months of his contract. "I want to have a good end to the season. The sprinters jersey at the Vuelta can be a goal, but I will aim for stage wins or being in the top-three regularly."
Bouhanni added that in 2015 his primary goal will be the Tour de France but will also look for a good start to his Cofidis career telling Cyclism’Actu of his ambitions.
"Necessarily as a sprinter, I want to win races," he said. "I aim for races early in the season such as Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Nice and Milan San Remo. It is clear that Ghent-Wevelgem is a goal. I have to look at the profile of Milan San Remo to see if it suits me because they may add the Pompeiana climb.
"I'd like to be in peak shape between Paris-Nice and Gent Wevelgem and after that, for the Tour de France. I will concentrate on the Tour and my goal will be to arrive as fresh as possible."
Also moving across to Cofidis is Bouhanni’s former FDJ teammate, Steve Chainel (Agr2) and current teammate Geoffrey Soupe — while Dominique Rollin, who retired at the end of 2013, makes a comeback to racing with Cofidis.
One rider who isn’t trading teams is Sébastien Chavanel who has been a key lead-out man in Bouhanni’s sprint successes this year.
"It's not a disappointment," Bouhanni said of Chavanel's decision to stay with FDJ. "I have good people around me to get me in the sprints. I can count on Geoffrey Soupe, Adrien Petit and Dominique Rollin, I have brought him, among others. That's fine with me."
Focused on the future, Bouhanni added that any disappointment that he had over his non-selection of the Tour was now extinct and he holds no grudges over the decision made by FDJ’s manager Marc Madiot.
"No. I participated in the Giro and I'm done," he said. "The Tour de France, it was a choice of the FDJ team. I respect him [Madiot] and I'm not going to think about that past. I will focus on the Vuelta."