Riviera Hustle

The French Riviera is a hotbed for professional cyclists. The temperate weather, access to some of Europe’s finest mountain passes and roads, and the riches only a mediterranean lifestyle can bring mean it’s a great base for a young pro. As Rapha launch the third in a series of jerseys celebrating the key European countries; we spoke to two young domestiques of Team Sky, Welshman Luke Rowe and US native Ian Boswell, about the joys of residing in southern France.

Ian Boswell

American Ian Boswell is in his third season with Team Sky and has lived in Nice since he signed for the team. Within that time he has honed both his coffee-making, French speaking skills and ability to drill it on the front for the men in black and blue.

There are some quite famous residents who also ride bikes in Nice-Monaco area, do you ever train with the F1 guys?

Indeed there are a few “famous residents” here on the Cote d’Azur. I have been out cycling with a few of the F1 and Moto GP guys, however, as I don’t follow those sports, I usually do not know who they are until afterwards when someone informs me of their identity. On the contrary, I ride with a lot of star cyclists, who I know very well. 

What’s your favourite climb and/or descent in the region?

My favourite French climb would have to be Col de la Bonette. The Bonette is only 90km from my house in Nice and happens to be the highest paved pass in Europe. The views from the climb are stunning, and the descent off either side is worth all the effort in climbing up to 2800 meters.

Are you more in touch with French cycling, riders and the language now?

My comprehension of the French language has improved while living in France. I make a good effort to speak with French riders in races when I can, and through that I have started to pick up on some of the history and passion of French cycling culture. 

What do you think of French food? Better than American fare?

French hands down. I do miss a good burrito and Mexican food, but the quality and freshness of the ingredients here in France makes even the simplest of dishes delicious. There are a few restaurants here I always go to when I need to excite my taste buds. But there are so many good bistros and brasseries. My favourite places are always the small family-run establishments; no reservations, closed as much as they are open, and always a changing menu depending on the season and what looks good at the market that day. 

Can you find good coffee in France?

Best coffee in France… my house?

Is France the true home of road racing?

In this day it’s hard to say where the “home of cycling” is; Belgium, Italy, France. They all embrace cycling in a different way. Here in France with Le Tour, the sport is propelled into another level of popularity. The French have a long and passionate history with cycling and that really comes to the fore when you see a race like the Tour.

What makes the Tour so special, for you?

While I have never raced the Tour, it more than any other race captivated my dreams as a young cyclist. Three weeks of racing over all sorts of terrain on the world’s stage is eye opening for a young kid. I remember waking up early every morning (9 hour time difference back to my home on the west coast of the states) in  July when I was younger to watch the Tour and cheer on my favourite riders. With the prestige and pride that comes with winning the Tour or even a stage, I feel that you always see the most beautiful and dramatic racing.

What will you be doing in France in July? 

I will not be doing Le Tour de France, but will be setting off on my own mini tour of France. My brother and I, along with teammate Nathan Earle and our good friend Pete Celone, have decided to embark on a mini self-contained bike trip leaving from Nice and heading into the hills. We have very little planning but lots of daylight, so we will see where the roads take us.

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Luke Rowe

25 year old Rowe has been with Team Sky since 2012. A strong all rounder with a top ten at Paris-Roubaix this season, Luke is hoping to secure his first ever ride at the Tour de France next month, where his ability to battle will be invaluable.

Do you think living down here has made you more suited to stage races?

Absolutely, 100%. You get so many altitude meters training here and in a safe, traffic-free environment (once you escape the coast road). I can literally roll out of my front door and start climbing immediately.

Are you aware of other Welsh riders who’ve lived and trained down here before?

It’s always been a hotbed for cyclists. I think the Nice-Monaco area, along with Girona in Catalonia are the two most populated areas with professional cyclists.  G (Geraint Thomas) moved down a few years back and as far as I’m aware he was the first and only Welshy (laughs) but there has been a fair few Brits based over here for quite some years now…

What do you think of French food? Better than food at home?

To be honest it can be hit and miss. I actually prefer to cross the border into Italy and grab a pizza or a nice fresh plate of pasta.

Is France the true home of road racing?

I would say yes, along with Belgium. For me these are the two standout countries where cycling is a true passion for many people. They understand the sport and have a lot of time for it. The biggest and best race in the world and the world’s biggest sporting event says it all – the Tour de France!

What makes the Tour so special, for you?

It’s road racing’s pinnacle. It just sums up the sport. The mountains, the summer, the suffering… Whenever cycling is mentioned, even if you’re just speaking to someone on the street or another cyclist, the Tour will always come up in conversation. As soon as you mention cycle racing, it’s instantly associated with the Tour.

Is it a good community of riders down here?

It’s a great set up down here, we have around 10 Team Sky riders based in the area and also a few members of staff. We often get together for a meal or a coffee and do a lot of our training together. Last night for example we had a team meal at the Team Sky house with 21 of us there (one for each stage of the Tour in fact). It’s great to not only be team mates but also a close group of friends. That essentially makes you a much stronger unit when it comes to race day. Unity.

What will you be doing in France in July? 

Time will tell…