American Ian Boswell scored the biggest result of his career Wednesday during the Queen stage of this year's Vuelta a Espaňa, surviving from a daylong breakaway to finish third behind Astana's Mikel Landa and current overall leader Fabio Aru.
The 24-year-old, who is in the final season of a three-year deal with Team Sky, was covering moves early in the stage and quickly found himself among a breakaway group of 19 riders. Six categorised climbs and more than 5,000 metres of elevation gain steadily pared the group down as the peloton drew near on the final climb, but Boswell stuck with breakaway counterpart Landa into the closing kilometres.
Only Aru, who had attacked from the select general classification group, was able to get past Boswell for second.
It was a big result for a rider in his Grand Tour debut, but Boswell's excitement for his own effort was tempered by news that team leader Chris Froome and top lieutenant Nicolas Roche both lost time. Froome crashed during the opening kilometres as the race left Andorra and was forced to battle back over the Collada de Beixalis with the help of his teammates, eventually falling 7:30 behind Aru's race lead. Roche lost nearly 15 minutes.
“I'm happy with my day, but getting back onto the bus it's mixed emotions with Froome and Nico (Roche) losing a bit of time,” Boswell said. “Our goal today was to see how it played out. On that first climb it was pretty full-on and a group went with quite a few riders we were trying to mark. I just happened to be up there and was able to follow it. From there the gap just went.”
While the team struggled with adversity behind, Boswell benefited from having team director Gabba Rasch in the follow car, talking him through the stage and reminding him of basics like remembering to eat and drink, Boswell said.
When the breakaway hit the climb with a two-minute gap, however, the advice got more serious, instructing Boswell to ride for the stage win.
"That's something I wasn't really sure about. I got to the bottom and [director] Dario [Cioni] came up to me and said, 'Two minutes - race for the stage,'" Boswell said.
“I didn't really expect us to actually stay away, probably until Aru came up to me and then I thought if I could stay with him for a bit I could hang on for a top three. It was a bit surprising in the end - you don't necessarily anticipate that early on. The breakaway won and that doesn't happen very often."
The result follows Boswell's top 10 performance earlier this year at the Tour of California, where he finished seventh overall and third on the Queen stage while helping teammate Sergio Henao limit losses to that day's winner, Julien Alaphilippe of Etixx-QuickStep.