After a disappointing Tour of California – and a subsequent 'reality check' – Ian Boswell believes he has put himself back on track for a Tour de France debut with a solid week of racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
The American admitted he was too eager to prove his worth at Katusha-Alpecin after leaving Team Sky, and struggled for results in the first part of the season, California having been a big target. At the Dauphiné, Boswell got himself in a couple of breakaways and rediscovered the sensations that had threatened to desert him under the pressure of the new dawn.
"After California, I had a bit of a reality check. I wasn't riding at the level I wanted and I couldn't really put a finger on why," Boswell told Cyclingnews on the final day of the Dauphiné.
"I went up to altitude after California, just outside Nice, and just being in the mountains for 10 days – I was there for half the time by myself – and having that time to sit and think and ride by myself was kind of a revelation that riding the Tour has been my dream since a little boy. And now it's at my fingertips and I’m the only person who can really get in my way from not making that team.
"I saw an interview with Dumoulin the other day, saying he was stressing the small things. I think I was doing something similar. I'd come to the team, I had opportunities; I wanted to prove that I was worth my weight here. I was maybe not listening to my body enough and focusing too much on numbers and intervals and whatnot, which you have to do at this level, but I just kind of got back to the basics of 'how do you feel on the bike?' That's sometimes a lost element in modern cycling. There are riders not really listening to what their bodies are telling them, riding off power, which is important but you also need to know how you feel."
With his refreshed mindset, Boswell infiltrated the breakaways on two mountain stages at the Dauphiné. On stage 4 to Lans-en-Vercors, Team Sky gave him very little room to breathe on the Col du Mont Noir, while he got further on the penultimate stage and was alone out front on the final climb, only for the overall contenders to come back and fight for stage honours.
"I was actually talking to Luke [Rowe, Team Sky] yesterday and I was like 'why do you guys keep the break so close?'" Boswell joked.
"I've been good here. I don't think I've been at my absolute best, but definitely at a much better level than at California. I think a day like yesterday was a good indication that my form is on the rise. Mentally, I'm just building some confidence. With a ride like that yesterday, I obviously didn't get a result but I was there or thereabouts."
Boswell, who joined Team Sky as a neo-pro in 2013, left the British team for greater opportunities at Katusha. He rode the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España in 2016 but apart from that struggled for Grand Tour starts, and with Sky's almost absurd strength in depth he knew a move was the only realistic path to the Tour de France.
"The team want me there, and obviously I want to be there. It's just a matter of showing them I'm ready," Boswell said of the Tour.
"When I spoke with [Jose] Azevedo [team manager], I told him that at this point in my career, I know what the level is. I've never done the Tour but I assume it's like the Giro or Vuelta but harder, and I don't want to go if I'm not ready. I don't want to go to go, I don't want to go just to ride to Paris and try to finish.
"We have [Ilnur] Zakarin and [Marcel] Kittel and every rider on that team is needed and I want to be able to contribute to a successful Tour de France. Not just riding around and taking it in; I want to actually race the Tour. It's about being honest with the team, telling them what I expect of myself. I think I'm old enough now to understand what level I need to be at to do well at the Tour."
There are still four weeks until the Grand Départ, and lots of details to be confirmed, but Boswell's gut feeling is that he'll be on the start line in the Vendée on July 7.
"If I didn't go to the Tour I'd probably head back to the US and take the rest of June easy, but I'm putting all my eggs in the Tour basket and going for it," he said. "I think if I keep working like this I should make the Tour team."
Not to lose sight of his post-California revelation, he added: "It would be dream come true."
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