Boswell last competed in the eight-day stage race in 2013, his first year with Team Sky, when he was a fresh-faced 22-year-old coming off two seasons with Axel Merckx's US development teams. Now 25 and with three full seasons at Team Sky and a podium finish in a stage of the Vuelta a Espana under his belt, Boswell is looking forward to another shot at the first WorldTour stage race of the season.
“It's a nice race,” Boswell told Cyclingnews recently with no hint of understatement. “It's something I kind of dream of, maybe one day doing Paris-Nice to win. It finishes in and around all the roads I train on all the time.”
The 25-year-old American started his season in Australia, where he was part of Team Sky wins with Peter Kennaugh at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and a one-two overall finish with Chris Froome and Kennaugh at the Herald and Sun Tour.
From there, Boswell went to South Africa with Team Sky leader and two-time Tour de France winner Froome for an intense one-on-one training block that not only pushed Boswell to his physical limits, but also provided insight into how one of the world's top riders comports himself off the bike.
“The thing with Chris is that while he's a star in the sport now, he's such a down-to-earth and easy-going guy. He's super genuine,” Boswell told Cyclingnews in a phone call from South Africa last week. “On a couple of easy days we've gone into town here or had a picnic and he's not pretentious at all. He's just so mellow. He's the same guy he's always been.
“We were jumping into waterfalls, swimming in the river and laying on the grass. He'll eat off the grill out in the woods, and when he's buying little souvenirs or something he's so gentle and so thoughtful with everyone. The money and the fame hasn't changed him,” Boswell said. “That's something that I really, really admire in the guy, just his thoughtfulness. The other day I left some dishes in the sink and he just started doing my dishes. He's just a really solid guy.”
The two-man training camp took place in South Africa's Mpumalanga region, where Boswell and Froome were joined by Sky mechanic Gary Blem and soigneur David Rozman. The trip was certainly no holiday – Boswell said it was the hardest training block he's ever done – but the riders were able to take part in some everyday activities that hearkened back to their similar-yet-worlds-apart upbringings, Boswell's in Bend, Oregon, and Froome's in Kenya and South Africa.
“Chris and I have always gotten along really well,” Boswell said. “I think we have a similar appreciation for the outdoors and how we were raised with camping, fishing and hunting, being outside versus something I don't have a lot in common with some of my other teammates who are from big cities or mainland Europe, and they're not really outdoorsmen, like we'd say in Oregon.
“It's fun to be here in his element. We've been exchanging a lot of stories about our upbringings. It's been a real reflective time about both of our childhoods and growing up.”
Ian Boswell and Chris Froome take a break from training in South Africa. (Team Sky)
Now in his fourth year with Team Sky, Boswell has been steadily “growing up” on the WorldTour as well and is on the verge of starting Paris-Nice in support of Geraint Thomas. Sergio Henao, Mikel Nieve, Nicolas Roche, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and Ben Swift will also toe the line when the race takes off Sunday with a prologue time trial in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. The race concludes after seven stages and nearly 1,300km near Boswell's European home in Nice.
Boswell's first time in the race ended inauspiciously when he failed to finish the sixth stage in 2013. But he's put in a lot of kilomteres with the team – many of them on the front pounding anonymously away in service of his team's ambitions – since that 2013 race that came just a week into his Team Sky tenure. He's hoping for bigger things this time around.
“I'm looking forward to going back and getting a little – not getting revenge on the race – but just going back and seeing the difference between doing it as a full-fledged professional rather than as a first-year rider,” Boswell said.
Coming off a training camp with Froome certainly can't hurt his fitness next week in France. Wout Poels trained one-on-one with Froome during an early season camp in South Africa last year, and upon his return to racing Poels won a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico and wore the race leader's jersey for a day. Boswell would like to bring a similar level of fitness into his early season campaign.
“For Chris, I know the foundation for his season is laid right here in these days, and I hope it's the same for me,” he said. “It's a big workload for me, and I'm pressuring myself pretty hard just to get through the training and feel good. Hopefully I'll go back to Nice, take a little rest and then when I start racing again I'll be at a higher level than I was last year.”
Following the French race, Boswell will maintain his trajectory toward his first Giro d'Italia, where he's hoping to support last year's third-place finisher Mikel Landa in the Spaniard's attempt to bring Sky the overall win. Landa has been troubled by a cold and is yet to start his season, delaying crucial preparation for the three-week race, but Boswell, who is on the team's long list to start the Italian Grand Tour on May 6 in Apeldoorn, remains focused on his potential role there.
“I think with all the Grand Tours we have big ambitions,” he said. “I just read recently on Cyclingnews that Landa has some sort of illness and he's postponed the start of his season, so we'll see what happens with him as far as how his health is, but my goal for the first part of the season is to aim for the Giro and be a part of that team.
“If Landa is there fit and healthy and ready to win, then I'd love to support him in the high mountains. If there are also opportunities within the race to go for a stage or a couple of stages, then I would love to jump on that.”
Watch the video below to find out who Cyclingnews selected as the 10 riders to watch at Paris-Nice in 2016.
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