Maxime Bouet proved his management right as he scored Ag2r-La Mondiale’s first WorldTour point of the season by finishing fifth on stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under in Angaston. The 27-year-old Frenchman was designated as the captain for the Australian trip as more responsibilities await him at the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España this season. Bouet will skip the Tour de France, in which he participated in the past five years.
Last year, Bouet broke a radius bone in stage 5 of the Tour, and his summer was also marred by an appendix operation. “I got back into an acceptable shape for Il Lombardia and the Tour of Beijing,” Bouet said. “I wasn’t really keen for a normal off-season break, so I stayed very serious and focused during the winter period as if I was still racing. That’s why I’m pretty lean now, also because of training for two weeks under the Australian hot sun. I thought I’d resume racing with La Marseillaise as usual, but the team convinced me to come to Australia and prepare for it. I feel like taking my revenge after the bad luck I had at the Tour last year.”
Bouet is adamant that he lacks confidence more than anything else. A stage winner at the Giro del Trentino, where he placed third overall behind Vincenzo Nibali and Mauro Santambrogio, he believes that his few top 10 finishes in hard stage races demonstrate his abilities. “I finished 10th at the Tour of Oman but look at the riders in front of me on the results sheet”, he said, referring to Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Joaquim Rodriguez, Rinaldo Nocentini, Johann Tschopp, Nibali, Kenny Elissonde and Domenico Pozzovivo.
“Same thing at the Criterium International,” he said. “I was proud to finish seventh behind those guys.” Once again, only big names: Froome, Richie Porte, Tejay van Garderen, Bauke Mollema, Jean-Christophe Péraud and Andrew Talansky.
“I’ve often been assigned the role of a second leader,” Bouet said. “At the Santos Tour Down Under, for the first time I’m the leader of the team in a World Tour race. I want to show that I can handle the responsibilities. My biggest flaw so far has been my lack of confidence in myself. I have the same coach [Benoît Nave] as Simon Gerrans, but I wish I had the same enormous self-confidence.”
Looking at all the candidates for the Tour de France inside Ag2r-La Mondiale [Péraud, Carlos Betancur, Christophe Riblon, Romain Bardet] and a route that includes cobblestones and very few opportunities for attackers, Bouet opted to ride the Giro and Vuelta instead, alongside Pozzovivo. “I like the bad weather, I like time trialling and I love the Italian style of racing,” he said. “Returning from Australia, I’ll focus on French races including Paris-Nice and Criterium International, and after the Giro, I intend to do the Dauphiné as well, since my capacities to recover are pretty good. But I won’t do the Tour for once. My friends and family find it hard to believe but I’m looking for more opportunities to deliver better results. I don’t want to remain the invisible man from the top 20.”