25-year-old American Ian Boswell has been given his first chance to lead a major stage race for Team Sky, and says it's a 'pivotal point' in his career
Boswell joined the professional ranks in 2013 with Team Sky. He has spent the last four years finding his feet and learning to help the team’s leaders. The 25-year-old has already raced in three Grand Tours and helped Chris Froome to second overall in the Vuelta a España last year.
“I’ve been a relatively reliable domestique, especially in 2016,” Boswell told Cycling Weekly from his base in Nice, France.
“I didn’t have any major results, but I rode Grand Tours and quite a few WorldTour races. I felt like I was an asset to the team in those races.
“Going forward in 2017 and 2018, it’s the pivotal point in my career. I need to dedicate myself to my career goals. Do I stick in the role where I’m at, continue to improve as a domestique, or branch out? I had a talk with Dave [Team Principal David Brailsford], and he wants to see me win races.”
Boswell’s 2017 programme sees him targeting the Tour of California with a window of opportunity to help Froome win his fourth Tour de France title in July.
Geraint Thomas took a similar route of targeting smaller stage races. He became Sky’s ‘plan B’ in the Tour de France and for 2017, the team’s co-leader with Mikel Landa for the Giro d’Italia. As the saying goes, the sky is the limit for Boswell.
The Oregon native is training in Nice. When he spoke, he had just returned from a long walk to help his Achilles. Soon, he will leave for the races, starting with the Abu Dhabi Tour on February 23 and continuing with the Volta ao Algarve, Coppi & Bartali, País Vasco and the Giro del Trentino.
“I’ll be in a lot more smaller races, but then I have chances to be more competitive. All leading towards the Tour of California,” Boswell added.
“My goal is to show up there, be at peak fitness, be ready to ride GC and lead Team Sky. That’s a big call for me, especially with Sky having quite a few American sponsors, and I’m the only American on the team.”
Bradley Wiggins, Tejay van Garderen and Robert Gesink have won the Tour of California in recent years. This year, the stage race travels north to south over seven days. The organiser has yet to release the full details, but based on some early information, the biggest days could be the Mount Baldly summit finish or the time trial up to Big Bear.
Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac), who Boswell helped to second overall in the 2010 Tour de l’Avenir amateur stage race, will attend. Other stars like Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) could also line up in Sacramento.
“I’m going bring my best and be competitive, and see how I stack up compared to those guys,” continued Boswell.
“I feel like I’m stepping into this role and it’s time to see what I’m capable of as a leader. It’s not as though California will decide everything for me, but it’s about being more selective and targeting races.
“I can go to the other races and try to win a stage or try to ride GC, to be higher up on the totem pole. I need to build up confidence and be competitive in the races.”
Boswell already has the confidence and experience of three Grand Tours. He raced the 2015 Vuelta, and both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta in 2016. The Tour seems like the next logical step. Boswell said: “That would be my goal, yes.”
The Tour of California, however, is not the normal path for a Sky cyclist. Usually, they are training at altitude on Spain’s remote Canary Island of Tenerife in that period. If Boswell rides well in the Golden State, though, Brailsford plans on putting his name on the list of potential nine starters for the Tour de France.
“I won’t stress about it, it will come if everything else stacks up,” Boswell explained.
“Dave says your dream is to make the team but your goal should be able to give us a headache in team selection based upon your California ride.
“It would be fantastic to ride the Tour. To have a great California ride in the GC and then help Chris win a fourth Tour de France.”