Ian Boswell has never been afraid to blaze his own trail. The 26-year old from Bend, Oregon, is one of the only Americans to ever ride for Team Sky, and when searching for a new squad last season, Boswell looked past the usual havens and became the first American rider to ink a contract with the Russian-based Katusha-Alpecin outfit.
When Boswell spoke to VeloNews from the team’s training camp in Mallorca, he was quick to comment on the relaxed vibe on the team compared to his former home at Sky.
”I feel like a neo-pro again, I’m so excited about everything that lays ahead of me. The overall atmosphere with the riders and staff is low key and mellow. There is a more relaxed approach to everything,” he said.
“I’m left a bit more to my own devices as far as what I want to do in training. It has been really refreshing coming from Sky, which is a fantastically organized team but is also very micro-managed.”
While he doesn’t have a specific race schedule in place with Katusha, Boswell feels confident his new situation will yield increased opportunities. At Sky, the American’s chances to race for himself were few and far between. When he was able to do that he scored impressive results, including a third place behind Mikel Landa and Fabio Aru on stage 11 of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana and a fifth place overall at the 2017 Amgen Tour of California.
Despite limited chances to ride for himself, Boswell focuses on the positives when looking back on his time at Sky.
“I wouldn’t say I was frustrated because I was still young, happy to help the team and learn,” he said. “It wasn’t always in the role I necessarily thought I was capable of, but it was a role I was gaining a lot of experience in.”
When the Katusha team was launched for the 2009 season, it was done within the framework of the Russian Global Cycling Project and was funded exclusively by Russian businesses. An outline of the Kremlin was featured front and center on the jersey in the early years, and the team’s stated goal was to develop the next great Russian cycling talents. However, in recent years, the program has taken on multiple German sponsors and has made a concerted effort to build a more international roster.
While Katusha seems to be an unusual landing spot for an American, Boswell said the team has welcomed him with open arms.
“As an American or English-speaking rider, you tend to not interact with the Russian riders, for whatever reason,” he said. “It has been funny coming here because you realize they all speak English.”
Perhaps it isn’t perfect English, but Boswell has no trouble communicating with his new teammates on rides. They even joke around at the dinner table.
“You learn they are no different than the Brits, Australians, Italians,” Boswell added. “They are just young guys riding their bikes. They are passionate about it, make all the same sacrifices, and work as hard as we do.
“These are guys you are maybe intimidated by because you don’t know if they speak English. They come from a culture that we view as tough and full of hard people. But it has been nice to get to know them, see them laugh, make jokes, and realize that globally, bike racers aren’t that different.”
Along with his trail-blazing team selection, Boswell continued the theme of picking the unconventional path by moving to Peacham, Vermont this past year. While most pros bask in the sunshine of the Cote D’Azur through the winter months, Boswell plans to gain winter fitness by mixing riding on the trainer and chopping wood in the bitter New England winter.
“I’ve gotten some grief from American riders who think I’m crazy for having done it. But my fiancée is from Vermont, and we found a little place in Peacham. It has been paradise,” Boswell said.
“Obviously, I knew moving there I was going to sacrifice training outside in a warm climate. It’s been nice to finally have a place that is home, where I can put my things and means something to me.”
Boswell said mixing sessions on the interactive indoor training program Zwift with chopping wood in the backyard has been his preferred method of building fitness through the winter months.
He also likes stepping away from the results-driven, materialistic world of European professional cycling.
“Being in Europe, people give you respect and assume you are a good person because you are a professional cyclist,” he said. “In our community in Vermont, people, even after meeting them multiple times, have no comprehension about what I do as a profession.
“It is a pretty obscure career to have in rural New England, which is a working-class, hammer-and-nail society. It has been really refreshing to have people judge me as a person, not as a cyclist, and to earn their trust, admiration, and respect through being a good neighbor and a good, active member of the community. It means more to them that I’m a good person than a good cyclist.”
With renewed enthusiasm, a solid home base, and a team willing to give him big chances, don’t be surprised to see Boswell mixing it up at the front of the sport’s biggest races in 2018, and possibly lining up for his first career Tour de France start.