Ian Boswell - Katusha Alpecin


Ian, the consummate professional, has set about quietly rising through the Professional ranks over the past six years and with a new team in 2018 big things are on the cards. We sat down with him to talk unconventional pre-race playlists, being banned from selecting the music on the bus and buzzed words being the most honest words. 

When were you born and where did you grow up?

IAN: Born and raised in Bend Oregon. Recently moved to Peacham Vermont with my fiancée Gretchen.

What is your Current City?

IAN: Checking in from Mallorca Spain where team camp is about to start.

How long is camp? Do you enjoy the preseason camps?

IAN: Team camp will be two weeks long in Mallorca. I will be changing teams for 2018 to Katusha-Alpecin, and I am very much looking forward to it. Camps are fine, however not that I am a new home owner I find it strange to have so much free time just hanging out in the room. I embrace the life I have set up at home in Vermont, so when I am here I find it a bit boring to not always have a project. I guess in a professional sense it’s good to train and recover.

You spend a large part of your life on the road travelling,  it’s no doubt influenced you, how does that extend to music? Do you pick up music from different cities and cultures when you visit?

IAN: I have spent a lot of time on the Team Sky bus. The latest top 40 and remix tracks are the theme. They are catchy but I don’t take those home. I was allowed to link my music up to the speakers once, never again.

Sounds serious, what did you play to get banned from the music selection?

IAN: It was in 2014 at a race in Austria, I played some Townes Van Zandt and I was shot down after 3 songs. That said Dave B had asked me to play some country music on a transfer after a stage in the Vuelta 2016. A few riders piped up and said, no way.

What was the last race you were at? What music did were listening to to get you through the transfers and travel?

IAN: My last race was Beghelli in early October. I was able to drive to the race from my place in Nice. At the time I was listening to a lot of Slaid Cleaves and Kitchen Dwellers.

Do you often get the chance to drive to races in Europe?

IAN: Over the past few years I have driven to most of the Italian races. Flights to most places in Italy often take longer than driving from my place in Nice. I also enjoy a road trip with the boys, it takes me back to my younger years.

What music do you remember growing up around? Who was the first person to get you into music?

IAN: I remember listening to a lot of Tom Petty and Neil Young. On one particular road trip to California with my mom I think we listened to the Wildflowers album by Tom Petty 50 times. She didn’t know how to change the CD, but wanted to listen to keep her awake. I think I know most the words on that album. That said, I always liked the music my mom and dad played.

The road trip with parents as an intro into music pops up a lot for Americans. It’s the best way to listen to music I think. Was that CD something your mum chose or was it just in the car?

IAN: I’m sure my dad supplied my mom with all her favorite CD’s but that album was probably the one he loaded first. My mother drove a lot for her work, which makes me think, she must have listened to the same 12 tracks for years.

What is the first song you remember liking?

IAN:  Keep on Rocking in the Free World by Neil Young.

Did you play a music instrument as a kid?

IAN:  I did not but wish I had.

If you could go back and learn a musical instrument, which would it be and why?

IAN: Guitar. I really enjoy singing along to most of the music I listen to. I’m not any good but wish I could play enough to play some simple tunes.

Which tunes?

IAN: I have a guitar and I play around a bit. I’m not any good and struggle with bar chords. I’d like to learn “Wild Flowers” by Tom Petty or “Flying Shoes” by Townes Van Zandt

How have your musical tastes changed and developed over the years since you were a kid? Did you ever get into any scene’s or the like?

IAN: I still listen to a lot of the music I grew up listening to. However I do listen to more classic country and blue grass music that my parents never really had around. Never been part of a “scene” not sure the music I listen too had many scenes with folks my age.

How’d you get put onto bluegrass and country?

IAN: I’ve never been one to identify with music genres. In high school my younger brother Austin and I got into hunting (mainly waterfowl and upland). Driving out to the woods and river we turned on country radio, as it felt right. Mainstream country began to sound a bit too much like pop, so I dug a little deeper and came across some other more genuine music.

What was the first album you bought with your own money?

IAN:  I mainly took albums from my parents. I do remember buying a Steve Earle album Transcendental Blues after hearing it at my Fathers friends house.

What was the first gig / concert you remember going to?

IAN: I haven’t been to many shows. The only big show and most memorable show was in 2008 when I saw Neil Young in Reno. I went to a Slightly Stupid concert in Bend that autumn as well with some friends. I liked a few of their songs.

What's the best gig / concert you've been to?

IAN:  Neil Young in Reno. If I could go back in time though, I’d go to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in the 90’s.

Who’s musical taste do you really admire?

IAN:  My father’s friend Michael had probably been the biggest influence in my music taste. He is an amazing musician himself but has opened my ears to artist like Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and Robert Earle Keen.

Is there anyone you’ve been on the road with who has had just brutal taste in music and you’ve been forced to suffer through it?

IAN:  The past five years with Team Sky. There were days in Grand Tours that I felt tired getting off the bus after listening to all the hip-hop and Top 40 tracks. That kind of music tires me out. Plus they will listen to is 10 times a day for a month then never listen to it again.

Hahaha, that’s exactly what I pictured the Team Sky bus scene to be like. Is that one of the toughest things of a grand tour, being on the road with so many people you’d ever hang out with otherwise?

IAN: I have made some true friends at Team Sky, yet like in any career you work with people you wouldn’t otherwise hang out with. That is one of the odd and beautiful things about this career. You are put in a situation where you sometimes spend 50 days and nights a year with someone you would otherwise never speak with. You gain a lot of knowledge about culture and how other people go about life.

Did you ever make playlists when you were younger as ‘psych up’ material for competition? Do you remember any tracks from those?

IAN:  I made a “TT Warm-up” playlist when I was a junior. It didn’t have much get up and go music. Maybe some Chili Peppers and Neil Young rock songs. Lyrics have always inspired me to listen to songs more so than beat.

Those are certainly not typical pre-TT tunes at all.

IAN: They are surely not what most people listen to while warming up. Angry/aggressive music has never been my thing, so I listen to songs I like. I feel that most the music I listen to tells a story, and motivation can be taken for all types of stories.

What song would you listen to put you in the right place for a race?

IAN: At the moment “Breakfast in Hell” by Slaid Cleaves, again it’s the lyrics that motivate me. Have a listen, if that song doesn’t make you want to harden up then I don’t know what will.

Listening to this track reminds me of an old country album my dad used chuck on only when we went up to the farm. It’s weirdly getting me fired up right now actually.

IAN: I love how a song or sound can invoke a memory. There are song I listen to that bring back a specific time and place.

What about out training?

IAN:  A mix of all the artist I have mentioned, maybe some Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Steve Earle and maybe some Sublime and Nirvana. An eclectic mix there.

What is the atmosphere usually like on the bus pre-race? Is everybody doing their own thing listening to their own stuff or is there a more communal atmosphere?

IAN:  At Sky they always blasted the sound system on the bus, so even if you tried to listen to your own music you would hear what the rest of the riders were listening to. It’s a communal choice, outside of myself.

What about post stage?

IAN: Post stage riders usually do their own thing. Some are on the phone, others read or watch movies/TV shows. I like to listen to my music and catch up with my family and friends.

How many days you on the road for a year?

IAN: I probably spend 150 days a year on the road a year. That includes races, travel, training camps, etc. Travel is part of this career and if you don’t embrace it you can really struggle.

Have you ever had a ‘victory’ song or a track you associate with any performance, good or bad?

IAN: Not yet, I haven’t won many races.

Fix that, I recon you’d have an interesting victory song.

IAN: “The Road Goes On Forever” by Robert Earle Keen. I guess that song would remind me that you have to enjoy winning, but the show goes on and soon it’s all forgotten. Life rolls on.

Have you ever worn your ipod during a race?

IAN: I have not, but there have been points in races when I wish I had.

What song do you play to get things started when you’re throwing a party?

IAN:  “Friend of the Devil” Grateful Dead, want to come to one of my parties? If it’s a younger crowd I’ll let my lady do the music.

Yeah I wanna come to one of your parties. Let me know and I’ll pop over. What do you think of John Mayer stepping in at Dead and Company?

IAN: I honestly didn’t know who John Mayer is off the top of my heard, I had to look up his songs. I have heard them on the radio or in a grocery store, should I be embarrassed? I saw he did a Tom Petty cover of “Free Fallin’”, I should listen to a bit more of his stuff. I did not know he played with Dead and Co, I’m not following up with the latest music scene.

Does musical taste influence how well you’re going to get along with someone?

IAN: I appreciate someone who is open to listening to different type of music. There are so many musicians out there; it never hurts to at least give them a listen. In cycling you create a lot of superficial friends, to those friends, I don’t often tend to listen to the same pace of music. Funny enough, most the riders and people who I get close with seem to have an appreciation for similar music to myself.

What’s a song that if someone played would instantly make you friends?

IAN: Any Townes Van Zandt song.

And inversely song that would instantly turn you off someone?

IAN: Anything by Cake, not sure why but something about that band I just don’t like. Or that song “Are we humans or are we dancers”. Again I don’t know why but something about it just doesn’t mesh.

So many people skirt this question but I am certain everyone has a band or song that for some inexplicable reason they cannot stand.

IAN: I don’t know why, just doesn’t please my ears or mood.

Have you ever played a song or pretended to know a song to impress someone?

IAN: Most surely have. I tried to sing karaoke in Japan to an Aerosmith song, I botched it big time. Funny how you think you know the words to a song then try and sing it without a background voice and you know almost none of it.

I know exactly what you mean. Its surprising how much of a song you think you know you’re actually just mumbling in tune to the lyrics. I like to just go off script in karaoke, not sure why exactly but it seems to be “my thing.”

IAN: Next time I sing karaoke I’ll try and pick a song I know better, or no be so drunk. Though I feel drinking is the only way I find myself singing karaoke.

A song you’re embarrassed to admit you like, but listen to often?

IAN:  “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks.

One day you’re gonna have to put together a highlights reel of your career. How does it play out and which songs are you going to score it with?

IAN: “Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait. In many ways the life of a cyclist reminds me of the cowboy in this song. A career that you continually chase, you throw your whole life into it. You sacrifice, lose people and miss people, yet for one reason or another you just put your head down and keep trucking.

That’s a great characterisation of the professional cycling paradox. What is it that compels you to keep saddling up each year?

IAN: I have no explanation other than for one reason or another we love it. Everyone’s reason is different. I enjoy the process of getting to where I want to be and seeing how that unfolds. Maybe I like the struggle and the self-development I find each year in trying to be better than I was the year before. If you are open and honest with yourself you can always learn something about yourself.

What’s the best way to listen to music?

IAN: No one listens to albums anymore. Programs like spotify are great for finding new music and making playlist. However there is still something special about listening to an album in its entirety. An artist made an album a certain way for a reason.

Do you try to listen to music this way as much as you can?

IAN: I do! My truck in the states only has a CD player so I always listen to albums in full. I live in a rural area so I spend a lot of time driving. While riding I also tend to listen to albums, sometimes the pace and mood of a song dictate my pace.

If you were colonising Mars and could only take one album, what would it be?

IAN:  Rust Never Sleeps by Neil young and Crazy Horse.

Dude, this has been a surprising interview, most of the artists you bring up I’ve never really listened to before and you’ve sent me down a bit of a country rabbit hole, thank you for that and thanks for getting this done. Take it easy

IAN: This one took a few beers, buzzed words are honest words. Enjoyed this and been a reminder of how simple and good life is. Music can change you.


Angus Morton