Riding for one of the world's top teams can be a double-edged sword for a young rider like Ian Boswell, the 24-year-old American who is in his third year with Team Sky.
On one hand, Boswell benefits from the top-notch organisation and support that the team provides, and he's also in a position to soak up the advice and example of some of the best riders in the peloton. But it can also prove difficult to find his own opportunities to post the results that will make a name for himself on the WorldTour.
"I think it's tougher in the sense that maybe you don't get results right off the bat, but then again you kind of make your own luck with results," Boswell told Cyclingnews from his home in Nice following a training ride with IAM Cycling's Larry Warbasse. "If you're riding well, the team will ride for the best rider, so I think it's the progression I'm taking at Sky.
"I think it's challenging to get opportunities sometimes because we are such a talented team, but because we have so many talented riders it increases the level of what I've learned from the older guys – like racing with Bernie Eisel in Dubai and being thrown into the leadout train, which is something I've never done before – and just learning a tremendous amounts of skills."
Boswell is focused this season on continuing his development while seeking opportunities to carve out his own place in the European peloton. After two years of competing in cycling's top division, he says he feels more comfortable now – both on and off the bike – and he's hoping that translates into more lines on his palmares and a contract extension when his three-year deal with Sky is up at the end of the year.
"You know it is my third year now, so I'm not a spring chicken anymore and it's time to prove that I'm worth staying here," he said.
"When you look at it yourself sometimes you get a little bit stressed about it because you're maybe not progressing as other people who I turned pro with," he said. "I haven't done a Grand Tour like some of the other riders have who are my age. But you need to take a step back and look at it. When I look at myself I see a nice steady progression, so I need to stay on that track but also make sure I keep up with the progression at a rate where I'm able to make a name in the WorldTour and get some results."
To that end, Boswell has thrown his hand up for a leadership role at the Tour of California in May. Although Sky hasn't picked the roster for the UCI 2.HC race yet, Boswell said he's hoping to get the freedom there to ride for a stage win or even the general classification. Boswell was impressive at the race last year in his support role for eventual winner Bradley Wiggins, but this year he's hoping for more.
"We don't have a definitive team yet for the race, but I think that Richie [Porte] is probably doing the Giro and [Chris] Froome is probably going to be at some sort of training camp before, so it's definitely a race that I would like to go for," he said. "I've set it as a personal goal, and it shows the team that I've taken some initiative and want some responsibility as well, which I think kind of shows my growth – that if I set a goal I can come to that race in peak condition.
"I don't think there's any reason why I couldn't have the ability to try for GC or a stage, especially not having someone like Brad there, maybe have some more freedom in the race, especially it being a race in the US. That would be fantastic."
Boswell is hoping that elusive Grand Tour will be on the agenda this year as well. He ruled out the Giro d'Italia because it overlaps with California, and Sky is unlikely to choose a rider who has never ridden the Tour de France to back Froome there in July. So he's pinning his hopes on the Vuelta a Espana to make his Grand Tour debut.
"Sky has made it clear this year that we're doing a few more races than we have in the past, which is good for me because it will be more opportunities, races where I can go to get results and ride for myself," he said. "So as the year goes on, I'd like to do a Grand Tour, but I want to prove to the team that I can be a valuable rider for them, not to just go to the Vuelta to go. I want to be there to help the team and whoever is leading it."
Boswell is off to a good start this season so far. In seven race days he's already earned a top 10 finish, coming in eighth during the second day of the Mallorca challenge, the difficult Trofeo Andratx-Mirador d'Es Colomer won by MTN-Qhubeka's Stephen Cummings. The result was a confidence booster as he heads into upcoming races at the Volta ao Algarve, Tour of Langkawi, Coppi Bartoli, Giro del Trentino, Romandie and then the Tour of California to end the first half of the season.
If all goes well, the results will come and Boswell will return next year to the British team. "So far with this team I absolutely love it," he said. "It's the perfect environment. I'm familiar with how the team operates and works and how we go about tactics and training. It's such a supported system that ideally I want to stay in this team, so that's my goal. It took Froome a while to be a champion, and hopefully I'll follow suit."
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