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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — American Ian Boswell is riding in the new red colors of team Katusha-Alpecin and hoping to reach his full potential after leaving Team Sky.
Boswell switched teams this offseason after riding his first five professional years with the British super-team of Chris Froome.
The 26-year-old now trains on a red Canyon bicycle and matching kit along the roads in Nice, France, his base when not at home in Vermont with his fiancée. After wearing Sky’s black for so long, some of his colleagues hardly recognize him in his new colors when he trains.
“The biggest change is my focus, remembering why I am cycling again,” Boswell told VeloNews. “It’s just been a big change going to a team where there’s a lot more faith and belief in what I am capable of as a cyclist.
“I found a new love for going out and pushing myself in training, making the sacrifices being in Europe while my family and fiancée are back in the States.
“It may sound cliché, but team Katusha-Alpecin is a new beginning for me.
“Manager José Azevedo has high hopes for me. There’s no pressure, but just desire coming from myself to reach a new level and perform at this point in my career.”
The 26-year-old from Oregon placed fifth in the 2017 Amgen Tour of California and third in a hard-fought Vuelta a España stage in 2015.
In team Sky, he trained hard to have his place among the top domestiques working for stage race leaders like Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. Also, he wanted his own opportunities and a chance to debut in the Tour de France.
The Tour debut may come working for Ilnur Zakarin. The Russian already won the Tour of Romandie, a Giro d’Italia stage, and this September, behind Froome and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), placed third in the Vuelta a España.
“I don’t know my complete program yet. I will some leadership opportunities in some races, potentially the Tour of Oman and then the Tour of California if we go there,” Boswell continued.
“I have already bonded well with Zakarin. That is sort of what I wanted to do at Sky, being a mountain domestique for Froome, but I never broke that upper echelon of support riders for Froome, but I hope to do that for Zakarin and Katusha-Alpecin. Just the way that [Katusha] race, not controlling from kilometer zero, it opens it up for me to try to get results.”
Fans may have a hard time warming up to Zakarin. Speaking Russian, he gives few interviews and flies under the radar for most. The 28-year-old also served a two-year doping ban in 2009 and 2010 for anabolic steroids.
“He doesn’t speak English fluently. He practices and when he is comfortable with someone he speaks it. He’s nice, he’s super-friendly, hard-working and funny,” added Boswell.
“I have a lot of respect for him as a rider, he finished third in the Vuelta this year without tremendous support in the mountains this year. I hope to give him the support he needs to get some bigger results.”
The WorldTour team looks different in 2018. Previously Russian-registered, the outfit has been racing with a Swiss license since 2017. It now has more of a German feel, especially with stars Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin. Boswell says the team language is English and an international feeling dominates at the camps and dinner table.
“At Sky, I fit in well with the British riders, understanding the language and culture, but Katusha feels international. We have quite a few big riders with Nathan Haas coming in, Simon Spilak, Tony Martin, Robert Kiserlovski … A very experienced team and some young prospects like Matteo Fabro and Stef Cras.
“It’s nice to be in a team where I get of respect. I have experience and I can pass on that to some of the riders. That’s the role I look forward too.”