American Boswell leaves Sky, signs with Katusha: ‘I had to change teams’

The 26-year-old Oregon native said he's ready for the next phase of his career, which includes more of a leadership role.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — American Ian Boswell, who is leaving Sky for Katusha in 2018, said he has been thinking about changing teams for a few months so that he could continue to progress.

The 26-year-old Oregon native spent his first five years as a professional with the dominant squad, which has racked up five Tour de France titles since 2012 between Bradley Wiggins (1) and Chris Froome (4).

“These two years are the formable years where you see what you are truly capable of,” Boswell told VeloNews regarding his upcoming time with Katusha.

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“I’ve learned a lot at Sky, from the best: Froome, Wiggins, and Thomas. I learned a lot, but to see what I am capable of on a more regular basis, I had to change teams. It’s also invigorating to have a new challenge and to do things differently and to go about things in a different way.”

Instead of the Kenya-born Brit Froome, Boswell will ride for Slovenian Simon Spilak and Russian Ilnur Zakarin on Katusha. And he will have more opportunities to ride for himself. This year, he did so by aiming for the Amgen Tour of California overall. He placed fifth behind winner George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo).

Taking that Californian path meant he had to skip the Giro d’Italia, which he rode in 2016, and ruled himself out of a possible Tour de France debut. But he has already lined up to help Chris Froome in the Vuelta a España twice before.

“I’m not a spring chicken anymore, I’m 26. I’ve been at Sky for five years, wonderful years and I learned a lot, but I thought about what I need personally and professionally. I’ve been looking around,” said Boswell, who has progressed during his time in a Sky kit.

“I had an opportunity to refind myself and reinvent myself. Not just in cycling, but you get stuck or pinned in a certain role. I moved up the totem pole at Sky, and I want to progress more than the rate I’ve been progressing, and Katusha is a perfect fit for me.”

Boswell and Australian Nathan Haas, who is leaving Dimension Data, could become Katusha’s star domestiques and go-to men in stage races with their experience. The team is also due to sign German sprinter Marcel Kittel from Quick-Step Floors.

“We haven’t talked about the program yet for 2018. We have Zakarin, a young rider who can ride to a podium or win in a grand tour,” Boswell said. “I will move up the ranks just by going there with my experience. I can bring a lot to the table.”

Teams saw that experience on offer. Though Sky did not, others proposed Boswell a 2018 contract. General manager José Azevedo convinced him to sign a two-year deal.

“When I started speaking with José, he was straight and clear about what he expects from me and what he thinks I’m capable of. It was good to have someone speak to me straight and have them say what they see in me,” Boswell said.

“He has been watching me since I was on Axel Merckx’s [amateur] team when he was a director in team RadioShack, affiliated with Axel’s team. He’s seen me through the years, and he was in a position to have us work together.”

Azevedo said Thursday of Boswell, “He brings a lot of experience with him and I believe in him. The time has come that Ian can make the shift from his domestique role to one as a leader. The reason why we’ve contracted him is because we trust him.

“In five years with Team Sky he has shown to be reliable, and also in three grand tours. In this year’s Tour of California he showed no problem in assuming the role as a leader. We haven’t seen the best of Ian yet.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.