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Remembering The Grand Tours with Ian Boswell

The previous evening, he and his wife made a dinner consisting mostly of items from their garden. The next morning, he spent time tending to his property in Vermont before going for a long ride. Now, life for Ian Boswell, the former pro-cyclist turned gravel-rider and man-of-the-countryside, is much different than it was the previous ten years.

When he was a professional cyclist, Ian had the extraordinary experience of racing in the Tour de France, La Vuelta, and the Giro d’Italia. With the Tour just ending and La Vuelta and Giro about to begin, we recently asked Boswell, who was also a part of Team Sky from 2013 to 2017, about his time racing the Grand Tours and what he remembers most.

(Photo by Chris Graythen)


Q: What was it like being a starter for the Tour de France?

A: “It was a dream come true. A lot of cyclists get into riding because they see the Tour, which I first saw when I was young. When waiting to hear if you’re going to race [the Tour], first you’re on the long list, then the short list, and then you’re in…There’s times where I pinched myself to realize what I was doing.

“The race was 21 days of pure joy. I tried to absorb where I was and realize the work I put into it. It’s almost surreal being there and getting caught up in the moment, riding, training, getting your nutrition dialed…the only difficult thing was when [we] came into Paris. Realizing it was over was a bummer because you think maybe you had more to give even though you raced hard.

“Transition back to normal life the day after was strange. Everything is taken care of for 21 days and then the next day you do it all yourself. But I stayed in Paris after the race because I had never been there. It’s a weird contrast between racing down Champs-Élysées and then riding down on a city bike in normal clothes and cars honking around you.”


Q: How was it consistently riding in La Vuelta? Did anything become familiar with the race format and get any easier?

A: “Racing the Vuelta is different than the other Grand Tours because of the prestige; there’s less media there, less stress, and not such a big event. It’s a great event to experience and build up to the Tour. It prepared me physically and mentally and taught me how to manage your recovery during a race.

“You never do constant training [like racing a Grand Tour] that much. You learn what works for you and what doesn’t, how to stay on top of nutrition and hydration…If you screw up your hydration, you could screw the next day and the whole race.

(Photo by LC/Tim De Waele/Corbis)


Q: As a professional cyclist, what’s one thing you didn’t expect racing the Grand Tours?

A: The timing of everything and the cultures that dictate your schedule. When you’re racing [in France, Spain or Italy], you’re trying to adapt to each country’s traditions and be aware of what you’re around to absorb some of the culture. Spain has late meals, so I was trying to adapt to that. The Giro, typically in the spring, could bring some bad allergies.

“One thing, across the board with any professional sport, is adapting to the environment you’re in. There are different road surfaces, making timing different. You learn to keep a strong routine, but then move things based on competition.”


Q: Comparing the three, is there one you like more and why?

A: “Well, my best memory is racing the Tour because it’s such a big event and meant so much. I loved the Vuelta because each stage was incredibly important to me. In 2015, I got 3rd and was so wide to what it was. I learned so much from my teammates and staff.

“You learn a lot about yourself [through each race]. Your body changes over time and with age brings wisdom. On top of that, with sport science constantly changing, you’re adapting to what’s being put out there. Trends come and go, and you experiment with new techniques to get ahead. It’s constant learning.”


Q: Is there anything you miss most or least about touring?

A: “The thing I miss most is the free time you have when the only objective of the day is riding your bike and looking after yourself. If you’ve done training, you’re good for the day. Everything else is secondary. And the next day is a new day. There’s a simplicity of being a pro athlete and I miss having the excuse of being a pro athlete.

“I do not miss racing in the rain or going down mountains in the rain. I don’t miss the risks you have to take.”

(Photo by Tim de Waele/Corbis)

While he’s stepped away from being a World Tour cyclist, Ian is still logging miles on his bike with Beta Fuel in bidon. Now, however, you’ll find him on fire roads as he’s transitioned to gravel riding. Boswell also spends his time hosting a podcast, Breakfast with Boz, covering topics like racing, training tips and unique stories from other renowned cyclists. Ian continues to find new challenges, but cherishes the accomplishment of pro-road cycling and racing the Grand Tours.

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Ian Boswell