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Back 1.17.2018

Meet Ian Boswell, KATUSHA-Alpecin’s first American rider

Ian Boswell is young and highly experienced. The multi-talented American, who turns 27 in February, spent the past five seasons in the World Tour, pro cycling’s top level. Before that, he was part of Axel Merckx’s highly regarded U23 development team (now called Hagens Berman Axeon). We recently talked with Boswell about his background, goals, and new role with Team KATUSHA-Alpecin. Below is an edited transcript: 

Photos © Getty Images

Can you tell us when and how you got into cycling?
I grew up in Bend, Oregon. It’s a very endurance athletic kind of town, so (cycling) wasn’t uncommon. It’s not a tremendously popular sport when you are a kid. But it wasn’t uncommon for me to be around people from the endurance community. My dad was a professional triathlete back in the ‘80s, so I was always doing cycling and that type of stuff, Nordic skiing, mountain biking, and running. I got into cycling and won some of my first races. When you are a kid and you are winning, it’s fun so I just kept going. I enjoyed the freedom of having a bike and being able to just leave my parent’s house and go wander.

You’re still young, but so far what has been the highlight of your career so far?

There’s been a couple. I would say the happiest moment of my career so far is being part of the team that won the team-time-trial in the Vuelta in 2016, because it’s a team effort. You put a lot of time and energy into it. That’s something I really enjoyed being part of.

Outside of that, last year’s Tour of California was a proud moment. I was kind of stepping toward a different path in my career to try to have more opportunities. I’ve been kind of in that progression of being a domestique and work for the others and now starting to blossom into a rider who maybe has the potential of racing GC in some races. 

You’ll be returning to SRAM componentry this season. How has that been?
I was on SRAM in 2011 and 2012 with Axel Merckx’s development team. At that time we went to two different forms of SRAM RED. I guess we had the original SRAM RED and then we had the updated version halfway through my second session, in 2012. That was already a big step forward. The last five years I’ve been on a different component sponsor. I’ve just started riding SRAM RED eTap here at the camp the last couple of weeks. It’s come a long way even since the group I had before. The shifting is very instinctive. Coming from a different system it didn’t take much time to figure out how SRAM’s system works. There are also a lot of things I really enjoy. The braking system and the ergonomics of the hoods seem to fit really well with my hands.

In terms of wheels, have you had the opportunity to test a few?
I’ve been riding the Zipp 404s, which is fast. To train on a wheel like that makes a training ride a lot quicker and enjoyable. And it’s great to train on wheels that feel like race wheels and also having the constant feeling of braking on carbon, which is different than on aluminum. It’s not better or worst; it’s just different. To be able to train on the same wheel that you are racing on is a huge advantage.

Speaking of braking, what are your thoughts about training and racing on disc-brakes?
It’s something that has been a hot topic in professional cycling for a couple of years. I’ve never ridden a road bike with disc-brakes, but I do have a gravel bike back home in the states that has discs and I’ve had no problem with it. They are definitely more powerful than rim-brake bikes. For that type of riding, it has been fantastic. In the years to come eventually everybody will be on disc-brakes in the road peloton. It’s just a matter of time. Sometimes cycling is slow to change with modern technology. You saw cyclocross, the stars were slow to adapt disc-brakes. Now, everyone is on disc brakes.

Now looking at 2018, what are your goals?
The Tour of California would be a target. I’m hoping the team goes back when I’m the only American rider in the team. That’s definitely a race I would target.

And then to try to do the Tour de France with Ilnur Zakarin. We’ve been together now for over a week and he is a very nice guy. I didn’t really speak to him before. He speaks decent English. So I’m building a good relationship with him, building trust and being able to be one of his key helpers and support him into the mountains in France.

Toward the end of the season, I’d like to do the World Championships. I have not yet done the Worlds as a professional. I did it several times as a U23 and junior rider. Hopefully, I can make the selection for the U.S., especially this year in Innsbruck, because it’s a very mountainous course. 

What race are you dreaming of winning?
For a stage race, it’s Paris-Nice. It’s a racer’s race. You know you have the Dauphiné and the Grand Tours, but Paris-Nice is a very tough race with always a lot of crosswinds, crappy weather, and tough climbs. For a one-day race, it would be Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which is also really a bike rider’s race.

What do you like the most about KATUSHA-Alpecin?
Probably just the environment that we have. It’s a very professional environment, progressive, and forward-thinking team. Within the team, we have big stars, like Marcel Kittel, Ilnur Zakarin, and Tony Martin, but I don’t feel there’s any ego within the team. I feel like we are all here working toward a common goal. I don’t feel people are trying to compete against one other. We are trying to get better as a team rather than individuals, which is apparent to me. We all get along really well.

If you could use only one word to describe yourself, which word would that be?
Maybe a romantic.

Follow @thebos91 on Twitter and @Ian_Boswell on Instagram