Vermont’s Tour de France Rider
Name: Ian Boswell Age: 27
Lives in: Peacham
Family: Fiancée, Gretchen Kaija; parents, Grant and Dina; brother, Austin; step-siblings Gabe and Marissa Nehl.
Primary Sport: Cycling
You may not realize it but the fastest bike racer in Vermont now lives in Peacham. Ian Boswell, a native of Bend, Ore., moved to the tiny town of Peacham, Vt. (his fiancée is from Reddin) last spring. Since then, his career as a bike racer has only skyrocketed. He has raced the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, but this year, Boswell completed the trilogy of professional cycling’s Grand Tours when he became one of the few Vermont residents to have ever ridden in the prestigious Tour de France. Competing for the Swiss-based team Katusha Alpecin, Boswell finished the 21-day race in 79th place. His highest placing was Stage 11 in the Alps when he crossed the line in 39th place.
How incredible was it to ride in the Tour de France this year?
It was really a dream come true. The Tour is what captures your imagination as a kid. Growing up in the Armstrong era with American dominance in the sport was instrumental in my getting interested in and pursuing cycling. It may be considered a foreign sport, but it’s one that Americans can do. I’ve done the Giro and the Vuelta but the Tour de France is the pinnacle of the sport.
What was your best moment in the Tour?
My best moment was on Stage 19 in the Pyrenees. We were down to four riders out of our original eight and we were a bit on our back foot and hadn’t met our goals. It was the final day in the mountains and we still had the fitness and motivation to perform and we were trying to set up our leader, Ilnur Zakarin. He ended up finishing tenth that day and ninth overall.
It’s interesting that you didn’t mention one of the days in the Alps when you had a higher finish.
Cycling is unique in that it’s a team sport raced by individuals. Only one rider gets the glory. My role was to support Ilnur. His ninth-place finish is his result but it took our entire team. That also includes 15 to 16 staff members who serve as bus drivers, race directors, chefs, doctors, and massage therapists. It takes a whole team.
What led you to join Team Katusha Alpecin?
Sky was my first pro team and I spent five years there and learned a lot. Right now, they are the most successful Grand Tour team. I have a two-year contract with Katusha and one of the reasons I joined was so that I could make the Tour de France squad. It was becoming hard to make the Tour squad with Sky and after five years it was time for me to start somewhere new and redefine my goals and aspirations.
Is it as crazy as it looks with the fans converging on the course on the mountain stages?
It is. There are so many people and some of the fans know they can get on television by running and wearing crazy suits. It’s almost become a show within a show. For all the close encounters that almost happen, it’s pretty phenomenal that there aren’t many injuries.
How do you stay fueled on the Tour?
Off the bike we eat a healthy, wholesome, balanced diet with an emphasis on carbs. On the bike it’s mostly an electrolyte mix and energy gels. At the feed stops we get musettes filled with sticky rice balls, paninis and bananas, as well as two water bottles and a small can of Coke. Coca-Cola is heavily consumed in the Tour de France. The feed zone is a dangerous part of the race. You’d think they could come up with a better system, but it’s tradition. Ninety-nine percent of the time there are no problems but this year, my fellow American Lawson Craddock crashed in the feed zone on Stage One and rode the rest of the Tour with a fractured clavicle and facial lacerations. It’s a testament to the Tour and what it means to be a rider that he carried on. [Craddock finished last – earning “la lanterne rouge” – but used his ride to raise over $150,000 to rebuild a velodrome in Houston that had been destroyed by Hurricane Harvey].
Do you think there is still doping in cycling?
I believe that cycling is a sport that has taken doping very seriously in the last decade. There will always be people in any walk of life who try to cheat the system. I raced clean and I know what went into my preparation. I believe all the performances that I saw were done on a natural and honest level.
Is there a language barrier with so many nationalities on the team?
We’re a very international team. We hold a Swiss license which is emblematic since we have people from twelve different countries. English is the spoken language of the team and it is becoming the language of the peloton. Most teams want riders to speak English but there are definitely some barriers and things get lost in translation. I speak French which helps but cycling is also a language unto itself.
When did you start racing?
I started racing BMX bikes at eight and did my first road race at 12. I was really drawn to cycling after I won one of my first road races. I played all the traditional American sports and did some Nordic skiing and snowboarding but at 18, I put it all aside and started focusing more on-road cycling.
What was your best race result prior to the Tour?
Probably last year’s Tour of California where I finished third on one stage. It came at a point when I was transitioning from being a young and inexperienced rider to realizing I’m capable of competing. It was also nice to be on North American roads.
What brought you to Peacham?
Gretchen is from Redding, Vermont so we wanted to live in-state but find a place on our own. We looked at a lot of properties and liked this one so we moved here last May. We live in a 1785 farmhouse with an apple orchard, garden and greenhouse. I’m excited that on October 13 we’ll be putting on the Peacham Fall Fondo. A lot of people in the community didn’t understand what I was doing for a living when I moved here because this is an obscure career, but I’ve received a tremendous amount of support from neighbors. The community aspect is so important here. I can’t really sit on a board or a committee so the motivating factor for the Fondo is giving back to the community in a way that I can. All the money will go towards turning an unused tennis court into a four-season community pavilion.
Photo Caption: A long way from his home in Peacham, Ian Boswell rides in the 2018 Tour de France. Photo by Jojo Harper.