One year after crashing on stage 3 at the Santos Tour Down Under, Maxime Bouet attracted some attention as he finished fourth atop Paracombe behind Rohan Dennis, Cadel Evans and Tom Dumoulin. "I haven't won but when you look at the top ten or so, I've left some great champions behind me: Michael Rogers, Richie Porte, Domenico Pozzovivo, Luis Leon Sanchez," the Frenchman said after the race. "I'm not one of the leaders on the roster of Etixx-QuickStep, and yet, I'm up there with the best and it’s not from a breakaway."
Bouet's capacities of climbing alongside established champions is nothing new but the former Agritubel and AG2R-La Mondiale rider has experienced one and half years of bad luck. He broke a wrist at the 2013 Tour de France and underwent an operation for appendicitis one month later. He crashed at the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under while laying fifth on GC and yet finished 15th overall. He also broke a collarbone during Paris-Nice last year. He was part of the big crash before Montecassino at the Giro d'Italia and never fully recovered by the end of the corsa rosa. "My only good result has been third at the French championship for time trial," he noted.
"It's been a relief to sign for two years with Etixx-QuickStep," he told Cyclingnews in Adelaide. "I had other offers from very nice teams and AG2R-La Mondiale was keen to keep me on board too, but this is exactly the change I needed. I chose this one because among the proposals, this was the team with the least climbers.
"My longtime coach Benoît Nave, who also trains Simon Gerrans and Mark Renshaw, understood that I was going under someone new to me, Koen Pelgrim, who also looks after (world champion Michal) Kwiatkowski. I'm fully committed to my new team. I had heard so many things from French riders joining a foreign team that I wanted to try that too and so far it's up to my expectation in terms of organization, atmosphere and approach of the racing. I was never very good at school and I've been learning English 30 minutes a day since I signed my contract, and also Italian and some basic words of Flemish if I need to call for a bike change or something like that.
"This is probably a new start to my career," Bouet, 28, added. "I hope to have put all my bad luck behind. I want to prove that Patrick Lefévère has made the right choice in hiring me. I love the passion the staff has for cycling. It's incredible. The cycling culture in Belgium is enormous and I'm the same. If I happen to be at home on a Sunday and there's a U15 race nearby, I go and watch it and I coach two kids as well."
Eighth overall halfway into the Santos Tour Down Under, he eyes Willunga Hill on Saturday as the opportunity to move up on GC. Paris-Nice, Volta Catalunya, Tour de Romandie, Giro d'Italia and Dauphiné are on his agenda for the first half of his season. "When I talked to [sports director Davide] Bramati about my possible arrival at Etixx-QuickStep, he told me I'd have to work for Rigoberto Uran at the Giro and I'm happy to do that," Bouet concluded.