Boswell talks Liege-Bastogne-Liege
(Bontrager-Livestrong’s Ian Boswell braved rain, snow and sleet Saturday to take second place at Liege-Bastogne-Liege Espoirs in Belgium. The 21-year-old from Bend took time out from his celebratory dinner and wine at the home of cycling legend Eddy Merckx, father of team director Axel Merckx, to send us this recap of the race).
I have been focused on Liege-Bastogne-Liege since early in the year and have planned my spring around this week. Earlier this week I did two hilly Italian one-day races, and there I could see that I was riding well. I was 15th in Giro del Belvedere and fifth the next day in GP Palio del Recioto.
This year was my third time doing LBL, and knowing the course made all the difference. The thing I did not know or expect was the snow, hail and rain. After 50km we were hit with the coldest hardest hail I have ever ridden in. As hail turned to snow the roads became very slick and dangerous. A group of three went up the road after 105km containing the final day’s winner, Michael Anderson of Denmark.
As the course went on I froze like hell but knew what I had to do to win the race. On La de Route the group split, and I was in the front group of 40 riders, 1:30 behind the three leaders. On the flats after the climb a few guys just rolled away including Josh Berry (Team USA). I knew it was a good group, but I did not want to go out there and ride the front with a chance of the group coming back. So I sat in the main group and waited until the climb up from Tilff.
The group with Berry was 45 seconds ahead at the base, and the three leaders were 45 seconds ahead of them. So at the foot of the climb I took off, knowing I had the legs to ride across to the Berry group. I caught them before the top and tried to motivate the group to ride for the win. On the long descent into Liege, Berry and I did most the work, and I knew on the Saint Nicolas that I had to again go across to the leaders.
At the base of the steep 1km climb, I again hit out in pursuit of the leaders. Berry followed and threw in an attack, but I followed and we caught all the riders in the front except the winner. Over the top, Berry, myself and the two riders from the break rode hard but we were not bringing back much time on Anderson, who was 30 seconds off the front with one climb and 7km to go. The last climb the Cote de Ans was my final chance to make the move across. So again I attacked, opened a gap and drew closer to the lead rider and the win.
Summitting the climb, I was 20 seconds behind and thought the leader was starting to fade. I worked hard to catch him over the last 4km, but the flat road proved too fast and I was not able to get closer than 15 seconds. I was happy with my ride, but when it comes to 15 seconds at the end of a five-hour race, you start to think of all the times when the pack slowed up for a kilometer or two.