Chasing Levi all in a day’s work for Bend’s Ian Boswell
MT. NEBO, Utah — Ian Boswell (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) put in the best ride of his young career Thursday, finishing third on stage 2 of the Tour of Utah behind Radioshack ProTour star Levi Leipheimer and multiple Tour de France top-10 finisher Francisco Mancebo.
Boswell, the Bend resident who won the Nevada City Classic and finished fifth on stage 1 of the Cascade Cycling Classic earlier this year, scored his best-ever NRC finish Thursday in Utah by making it into a select group of six riders on the slopes of the final climb. The 80-mile road race finished at the top of the Mt. Nebo climb, which covers 4,000 feet in the last 11 miles and tops out at 9,300 feet elevation. Leipheimer created his solo escape by countering an attack from 2009 overall winner Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles) about 5 km from the finish. He quickly dropped Mancebo, Boswell and the others. But the young Bend rider stayed with the former Spanish national champion to the line, finishing just 52 seconds in arrears. South African Darren Lill (Fly V Australia) crossed the line fourth less than 10 seconds later, and his teammate Phil Zajicek rolled in fifth another 15 seconds back.
The result earned 19-year-old Boswell the blue jersey signifying the race’s best young rider. He also moved into fourth overall behind Leipheimer, Mancebo and Lill , just 1:16 off the lead pace. It would seem to be some pretty heady stuff for a rider who graduated high school little more than a year ago. But it was all just another day in the saddle for the confident young neo pro.
“Looking back on it, yeah it’s pretty cool, but at the time it was just a race and it doesn’t matter who it is,” he said by phone while waiting for this evening’s individual time trial. “I knew that it was Levi and them. Maybe the only difference is that I knew how strong they were versus being someone I didn’t quite know as well. But a race is a race. I didn’t give anything away or do anything special just because it was those guys. I just raced like I had to.”
Boswell first rode into the domestic pro peloton spotlight at last year’s Nevada City Classic when he joined now-teammate Ben Jacques-Maynes, Leipheimer and Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong as they lapped the field. The 18-year-old had already won the Junior race earlier in the day and was still able to tag along with the pro breakaway trio — even taking his share of pulls — until finally losing contact. Pro team race directors took notice, and as a bonus the New York Times published a photo of Boswell cresting a hill next to Armstrong.
He signed with Bissell in the off-season with the understanding that he’d be allowed to race in Europe with the USA Cycling U23 National Team. He moved to northern California near where the Bissell squad is based so that he could attend college classes and start training with some of his future teammates. As it turned out, it would be a while be for he raced in his Bissell kit. He spent much of the early season in Europe with the national team. Delayed flights because of the Icelandic volcano kept him from competing at the Cherry Blossom Classic in April, and nagging knee pain sidelined him from the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic in June.
Boswell eventually returned to racing at the Nevada City Classic, winning again — this time as a pro — in front of his teammate, 2009 Mt. Hood winner Paul Mach, and a field that included past winner Burke Swindlehurst and a resurgent Floyd Landis. Boswell’s next big result came with a top-5 NRC finish during the difficult stage 1 McKenzie Road Race of the Cascade Cycling Classic won by Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare). He led the first chase group across the line and beat former ProTour rider Pat McCarty for the fifth spot.
Now he has his sights on Utah’s young rider jersey and a good GC result. He’ll need to set a good mark in the 9.5-mile individual time trial, survive Saturday’s challenging criterium and ride well again during Sunday’s Queen stage that finishes atop Snowbird Ski Resort at 8,000 feet.
“The time trial is today, so it depends on how that goes,” Boswell said of his chances. “If I have a good ride there, and then there’s a crit on Saturday and another hard road race on Sunday, and I have another good ride there, the GC will decide itself.”
Boswell will start the evening time trial fourth from last and will have the benefit of input from talented teammates like Jaques-Maynes, Jeremy Vennell and Mach. He said he also hoped it would be possible to hitch a ride in the team car following one of his teammates so he can get one more chance to recon the course.
“They can give me info on how to take the turns and what needs to be done to have a good ride,” he said of teammates who start earlier in the day. “It’s good to know time splits, wind conditions, anything that can help.”
The Tour of Utah could prove to be a great chance to get another good result for his team before departing next season. Boswell has already committed to ride in 2011 for Trek-Livestrong, a U23 development squad for the ProTour RadioShack team of Leipheimer and Armstrong. He’ll trade in the red-and-white kit of Bissell for Trek-Livestrong’s black and yellow.
“That was a hard decision,” Boswell said. “Bissell’s been an awesome team, and it’s been an awesome year with these guys. They’re a good group of people.”
Although Bissell has proven to be a good fit for Boswell and he’s delivered some good results for the team, Trek-Livestrong is the next logical step toward his goal of racing professionally in Europe. The Trek U23 squad, directed by former pro and Grand Tour rider Axel Merckx, has an extensive European program that delivered Taylor Phinney, now on the RadioShack stagiere team, two consecutive U23 Paris-Roubaix wins.
“I want to try and get over To Europe more and race as much as possible, and Trek allows me to do that a little bit more,” Boswell said.
RACE NOTES: Oregon’s own Breakaway Promotions contracts with the race promoters to provide logistical support and organization for the Tour of Utah. Chad Sperry, Leslie Cogswell, Jeff Lorenzen, Brad Ross, Tom Hoffman and more OBRA/Oregon folks are in Utah making the race happen. … National road race champion George Hincapie (BMC Cycling) crashed and had to abandon the race with 17 stitches in his knee. … The six-day Tour of Utah started Aug. 17 with a prologue time trial in downtown Salt Lake City and concludes Sunday, Aug. 22, with the Queen finishing at Snowbird Ski Resort.
Tour of Utah photos courtesy of Christopher See.
• Boswell battles Mancebo on Utah’s Mt. Nebo, By Kirsten Frattini, CyclingNews.com, Aug. 20.
• Leipheimer fires solo shot in Utah, By Brian Holcombe, VeloNews.com, Aug. 20
• Red Bissell wants blue at Utah, By Lyne Lamoureux, PodiumInsight.com, Aug. 21