American Ian Boswell has established himself as a top teammate on the mighty Team Sky. And now in his fifth year as a professional, he hopes to lead the team in the Tour of California. 

Words and Images: James Startt, European Associate to Peloton
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Peloton Magazine: Ian, you got off to a good start to the season, but progress was slowed recently by sickness.

Ian Boswell: It’s been two weeks since the first symptoms (ed. this interview occurred on Feb 23). Today was the first day I woke up and I felt like I could do laundry. I’ve missed a bit of training but that’s how it goes.

Peloton Magazine: One of your big goals was riding Tour of California as a team leader on Sky this year. Do you still feel like that is a possibility?

Ian Boswell:  I should be able to get back on the program. I rode well in the first races of the year, in the Majorca Challenge, so I think there is still time. The Tour of California is still a long way out. Once you are in the racing you are so focused on each day, but something like this forces you to take a step back and reassess things. California is still more than two months away.

Peloton Magazine: So maybe it is a blessing in disguise! After all, how many guys break a collarbone or something in the classics and then come out just killing it in the Tour de France?

Ian Boswell: That’s just it, or the guys that break a bone in February. They are usually the best guys in the Giro!

Peloton Magazine: So you are right on schedule!

Ian Boswell: Yeh exactly! I mean I did miss a bit of racing. Last week I couldn’t really do the Tour of Algarve and that is a race I enjoy! It definitely would have been nice to get a few more race days in with all of the training, but I just have to accept where I am at and make sure that things are moving forward. It is easy when you get a setback to panic because you are behind. But I have plenty of races coming up so I should be fine.

Peloton Magazine: You’ve been on the Team Sky for five years now. It’s been a long apprenticeship, but you announced that you will have a chance to rider for yourself a bit this year, and are particularly focusing on the Tour of California.

Ian Boswell: It has been a long apprenticeship. But I feel like I am ready to take a step forward and I’ll be interested to see what I can do there. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to win. But I want to see what I can do when I show up in peak condition and have a chance to ride for myself. I want to see what I can do—both to myself and my team—if I am given the responsibility.

Peloton Magazine: Five years is a long apprenticeship for many riders, but then you are on what is likely the biggest, most structured team in the world.

Ian Boswell: Well, there were a lot of factors, but I feel like I have made a real steady progression. The first year I spent a lot of time getting set up here in Europe. I did that well, but probably didn’t race as well as I could have. The second year I was really learning the ropes of the racing and in the third year I started to perform well in races like the Tour of California and the Dauphine and I made the Tour of Spain squad. And then last year I improved even more and did both the Giro and the Vuelta. I might not have had a ton of results last year, but I definitely felt that I was an important part of the team in every race I went to. I was at the Tour of Dubai a couple of weeks ago and remember thinking back to when I was there in 2015. I remember trying to help in my first sprint lead out and I was just getting shouted at! I didn’t know what I was doing. But when I went back this year, I understood how it worked.

Ian Boswell killing it with Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali on his wheel at the 2015 Dauphiné.
Ian Boswell killing it with Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali on his wheel at the 2015 Dauphiné.

Peloton Magazine: I remember you telling me earlier that, if you didn’t sign a three-year contract with Sky as a neo-pro, you probably wouldn’t be on the team any more.

Ian Boswell: Exactly. Everyone improves at their own level and I needed that extra year. Everything fell into place in my third year. I had good results in my second year, but I was much less consistent.

Peloton Magazine: One of the moments where I saw that improvement came in the 2015 Dauphiné Criterium, where you rode tremendously for Chris Froome in the mountains. What is it like riding tempo for a guy like Chris Froome in the mountains of the world’s great bike races?

Ian Boswell: Well, on a team like Sky, you have to find goals that motivate you, because a guy like myself, is not going to races to win very often. But I get a lot of satisfaction working for Chris. He is an incredible rider, who nine times out of ten pulls through and wins. That is just amazing. When we are having the team meeting in the bus in the morning and Chris says, “Hey guys, today we are going to win!” Well you know that he is going to do his damndest. And as a teammate that is an incredible thing! We have very good organization on this team, and I think a lot of it comes from having proven leaders. Everyone can get behind that 100% knowing that their efforts can very likely result in victory.

Peloton Magazine: Well beyond the racing, it seems that you and Chris have become good friends, as you live and train in the same area.

Ian Boswell:  I live in Nice and he lives in Monaco, but I’m in the hood! As a result we train together quite a bit. We’ve got a great group down here with guys like Michal Kwiatowski, Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe and Wout Pouls. And when we are in town we train a lot together, which is pretty inspiring. Watching the way those guys work, when that is what I aspire to be, is just amazing. I’m 26. I’m just entering the prime years of my career.

Peloton Magazine: What is it like training with those guys down there? It must be a bloodbath. I mean there are no easy rides on the Côte d’Azur. You can only do laps up and down the Promenade des Anglais so many times. And everything else is just hills, steep hills! And to train daily with guys at that level, ouch!

Boswell warming up in pre-race mode.
Boswell warming up in pre-race mode.

Ian Boswell: Well that’s true. There is not much flat riding, so we tend to do a lot of climbing. That said, we each have our own workouts and we’re all doing our own specific efforts. But yeah, when you are riding in a group, you always get pushed along. You get a good gauge of where your condition is at. And it’s fun. There is really good camaraderie in the group that motivates everyone. We have our own little service course down there with extra bike parts, nutritional products. Sometimes we do team meetings up there or even barbeques. It’s like a hub for us.

Peloton Magazine: What is the most impressive thing about training with Chris?

Ian Boswell: I would say his work ethic. Rain or shine, he is doing what he needs to de every day. Also he always remains focused on what he needs to be doing. If he is training with someone that is flying because they are getting ready for the Tour Down Under, he doesn’t get sucked in. He does what he needs to do. He is good at listening to himself. That said, when he is going good, he trains the house down. He trains like no one I have ever seen before.

Peloton: Obviously this is an exciting year for you, with a chance to break out. It may be a little nerve racking, but exciting.

Ian Boswell: I am still really focused on having a good Tour of California. After that I hope to ride with Chris in the Tour de France. That is a real goal too. It’s very hard spot to get on the team obviously. But if everything goes well, I’ll come out of California the Sky strongly and selection committee will have to take me to the Tour. If not, I at least plan on giving them a headache during the selection process when it comes to deciding if they will take me or not!