Prepare.Execute Diaries: Sky-high standards

Ian Boswell at the Giro d’Italia

Team Sky rider Ian Boswell is providing Rapha with dispatches from the frontline of racing at the Giro d’Italia. His third diary entry, written the day before team leader Mikel Landa was forced to withdraw with illness on Stage 10, proves that in the sport of cycling, even the best laid plans can unravel in an instant:

Monday’s second rest day was great, we had nice weather and a good coffee ride. A few of my teammates’ wives and partners have come to visit, including Philip Deignan’s fiancée Lizzie Armitstead, and it’s nice to have some different faces around the dinner table as it drives the conversation away from cycling. It’s easy to get obsessed when you’re living and breathing the race. Over breakfast, Christian Knees was talking about Tuesday’s stage, but [David] Lopez said: ‘no, it’s a rest day, we don’t talk about the race on the rest day’.
Ian Boswell at the Tour of California, stage 3
We have quite a different set of riders here, a mix of guys who haven’t raced a whole lot together, including our leader Mikel Landa who is in his first year with the team. Earlier in the season Lopez was out with a broken collarbone, Deignan with a broken wrist and Christian and [Elia] Viviani were doing the Classics, so it has taken us a little while to gel. To be honest, for the first week of this Giro we didn’t ride how Team Sky would be expected to ride.

For example, on Stage 6, the first uphill finish, it was a bit scattered as to who would be doing what, and when each domestique would do their work on the front. I was in the front group with our climbers until 5km to go, but I felt like I was there without any specific goal so I wasn’t much help.
Ian Boswell at the Tour of California, stage 3
Dave Brailsford is here and he’s great at observing these things. He gave us all a pretty heartfelt talk on the bus before Stage 8, Saturday’s mountain stage, saying ‘you guys are a good team but you’re not a great one yet. I see a few things that you can do to help each other to really ride as one.’ After that Landa then said: ‘Guys, if I see you all working hard it motivates me to come through to the best of my ability. When I see the team giving their all, I want to give my all too.’ We went on to nail it that day.

Myself and Phil [pictured below] are slightly bigger riders so it made sense for us to do a little more work on the flats earlier in the stage. The plan was that Phil and I would get the team to the final climb in a good position, with Christian Knees acting as Landa’s bodyguard, and then Sebastian Henao, Nicolas Roche, and Mikel Nieve would try and help him as much as possible on the climb.
Ian Boswell at the Tour of California, stage 3
It was cool to have this job with Phil, who’s a good friend. We were on the front, beating our heads against the wall, and I was like ‘come on Phil, ten more kilometres and our day is done’. I think we motivate each other, and we take satisfaction from the team getting so much out of our work, even if the fans don’t see us at the pointy end of the race.

That was the first day I lost a large chunk of time, and people back home were asking ‘oh what happened today? I thought you were looking forward to the mountains?’ but on the contrary I came back to the bus that day and everyone was super jazzed. Dave gave me a big high five and said ‘brilliant job’.
Ian Boswell at the Tour of California, stage 3
Mikel Landa is a fantastic guy – he’s incredibly funny. That evening we were on the bus for a long transfer and he was on some sort of app, sending us funny videos on our team Snapchat with his eyes getting big. He’s really mellow, and relaxed but also friendly. I’ve ridden with a few team leaders in my career who aren’t necessarily very personable with everyone and are just there to get the job done, but Landa comes to each of us and thanks us for our efforts.

I’m looking forward to this week to see how we continue to ride. We have a really hard stage on Tuesday and then again on Saturday, with almost 5,000m of climbing, so the top end of the peloton will start to take shape. I tend to enjoy and perform well on stages at altitude, so Saturday is a stage when I’d like to be up there. You have to manage your energy though, so if I want to have a good day that day, I might have to think about taking an earlier job on the Friday so I have more recovery time. You can’t do a big job every day and expect to continue riding at that level – three weeks is a long time to be killing yourself every day.

Read Ian’s first and second entries in the Prepare.Execute Diaries.

Ian Boswell at the Tour of California, stage 3