Ian Boswell at the Giro d’Italia
Team Sky rider Ian Boswell concludes his Giro diaries in a reflective mood following a special visit from loved ones. The young American fulfilled his expectations of making it into the breakaway on Stage 19, helping team mate Mikel Nieve in his successful quest for the blue climber’s jersey but, as ‘Bos’ says: “all of this is just bike racing”:
So, I’m a ‘finisher’ of the Giro and it’s good to have it over with. It’s strange to not have a daily schedule for the first time in a month – nobody’s telling me what time to wake up, when to eat or when to leave the hotel. I’m back home in Nice in France and my mother and girlfriend are visiting, so it’s great to relax with them here.
As the final week of the race dragged on, I was putting pressure on myself to perform well on one of the final mountain stages. I didn’t want to leave without having a big day and by Stage 19 I was dead set on making it into the breakaway. Groups went up the road and I kept jumping across but they were always pulled back. Eventually the break went and even though we had three Sky riders in it, I wasn’t going to let it get away without me, so when the gap was big enough for no one to come across, I then jumped across myself. It was probably unnecessary to have me in there too but I felt good.
That was the Cima Coppi stage [a prize for the first rider over the race’s highest mountain] and as we hit that climb my legs were hurting quite a bit but at 9km to go I came across my mother and girlfriend. That was the first time I’d seen my girlfriend since Valentine’s Day [14th February] and she was dressed up as Superwoman with a cowgirl hat and American flag! She ran alongside me for about a minute because we were going really slowly up the steep climb. Seeing them cheer me on was even more special than being in the front group of the highest mountain of the race.
With my heart warmed and the pain taken away by them, I had that bit of extra motivation to keep fighting. I got to the front of the group and by the top it was just Mikel Nieve, myself and a couple of other riders, with Michele Scarponi off the front. Nieve then hopped off to take the mountain points in his pursuit of the blue jersey. It was good to have been able to help him.
When you’re in the race you know less about what’s happening in it than when you’re following it on TV. I’d never seen a race from the perspective I had on that Stage 19 – we got caught by Vincenzo Nibali and Esteban Chaves’ group going into the final climb and I had no idea that Ilnur Zakarin and Steven Kruijswijk had crashed on the descent. As I rode up slowly, my day done, people were flying past. Jungels came by, then Uran and then Kruijswijk in the pink jersey and I was thinking ‘what the heck happened?!’ It was a weird experience. My main concentration at the time was to listen to the radio to see how well Nieve was going up the road. It’s funny, you’re so focused on what you and your team are doing that everything around is almost irrelevant.
At this race I learnt that you always have to keep fighting. Just look at how far down Nibali was before he won. At Sky we had Mikel Landa out, then Elia Viviani and Phil Deignan left, but we still finished with quite successful results. We won a stage, got the blue jersey and Sebastian Henao was second in the best young rider’s classification. Never lose hope because things can always change.
Having said that, the cream does tend to rise to the top after 21 days. Nibali showed that he was the best and most robust rider of the race. Nieve was the best climber and Giacomo Nizzolo was the most consistent sprinter. It was awesome to see Kruijswijk and Chaves in the pink jersey and I would have been happy if either of those guys had won, but Nibali showed his experience as a champion.
It was awesome to do the Giro. It is unique and dramatic: the climbs are so brutally steep, the descents so technical and the scenery so beautiful. Still, as I said in last week’s entry, I try to keep perspective on what we’re doing. At the end of the day, it’s just bike racing. It might be cool and it might be magnificent, and you come back to the team bus at the end of the day to all these fans cheering, but then you take a shower and walk out in normal clothes and all of a sudden no one cares about you. Go one block away from the race and you’re just a tourist in Turin. It’s strange how quickly it comes and goes. Go up to the mountains today and there’ll be no one there.
The Giro’s over and yet there’s still half the season to go. I do the Tour de Suisse next week which is a huge race in its own right but it seems a small task after finishing a Grand Tour. Give me a few days and I’ll come round.
Thanks for reading, Ian.
Read Ian’s previous entries here.