American Ian Boswell (Katusha-Alpecin) is midway through his Tour de France debut on July 7. He’ll be providing us with updates throughout the race, sharing his perspective while riding in support of team leaders Ilnur Zakarin and Marcel Kittel.
I’ve made it through the first nine days and still have a smile on my face despite losing two teammates — Robert Kiserlovski on Stage 5 and Tony Martin after Stage 8. It’s amazing that we do this every day knowing the risks but not thinking twice about them.
That said, I never want to do Paris-Roubaix. Stage 9 was enough.
I’ve approached a couple other debutants in the race – a couple of French riders – and said, “Hey, man, congratulations on being here. This is cool!” They kind of look at me like, “What are you talking about?” I reply with the overeager excitement that I genuinely feel: “Well, it’s pretty cool that we’re here…this was our dream to be here growing up, and now we’re here.”
All the racing and fanfare has made my time in the Tour pass in a daze. I have never witnessed, nor felt, the energy that I feel here at the Tour.
For me, at least, it was a dream for so long that being here in the Tour still feels surreal. There are so many iconic images from the Tour that spark memories of my younger years that have dawned on me this week. For example, we rode through what seemed like endless sunflower fields on Stage 7, and I remember, as a kid, seeing Graham Watson’s photo of all of the colors of the peloton stretched out with that distinct background of sunflower fields. The yellow jersey perfectly patching the bright yellow flowers on a hot July day.
After this July, there may be a picture in a magazine or someone may have a poster of that image, and I’ll be somewhere in that peloton in red.
There are so many different stories within the Tour. Each rider and team has their own struggle, their own success. I’m enjoying seeing how different people see success in the Tour, which doesn’t always mean winning. There are a lot of success stories, like Lawson Craddock’s perseverance despite his broken scapula, and also a lot of disappointment, like Richie Porte’s unfortunate crash on Stage 9 before we even got to the pavé.
I am embracing the Tour for what it is, as it can end at any point. There will only be one first Tour for me. I have been riding around with a smile on my face because I have been enjoying this race also as an event and a life accomplishment.
For the first time in my career, I am not following the Tour as an outsider — I’m on the inside. The irony is that now that I am in the race, I know less about what is going on than if I were watching it from the outside. I don’t have the time to read all the cycling articles and scroll through Twitter and Instagram and check out YouTube. I am more involved in the race than ever, and yet the least informed in the moment.
At the end of Stage 1, I ran into Luke Rowe at the finish and was giving him a hard time to pass the scrum that awaits behind the finish. Unlike Luke, he wasn’t in a joking mood. It wasn’t until I got back to the bus that I learned Froome had crashed and lost time. Luke, being the stand-up guy he is, messaged me later to say sorry for being so serious, an apology he didn’t need to given the circumstances.
I am living in the moment of every minute of the Tour, and so it feels like a strange daze to be nine days in and nearly halfway through already.
I’m not looking ahead and I’m not looking behind. I am treating each day as its own race so I don’t get too far ahead of myself nor stuck in reflecting too much on the past. And in the moment, I have not lost my sense of humor. Tony Gallopin went off the pavement briefly the other day, and I rode up to Taylor Phinney and said, “Look, Tony gallopin’ the grass!” (Get it, Galloping in the grass?) Maybe it was only funny at the time since we had been on our bikes for nearly six hours.
Sometimes you just have to lighten the mood in the peloton. I’m not a veteran, and so I have dropped my ego to embrace the race as a starry-eyed debutant who does not feel or act like some do, that this is just another race.
This is not just another race, and I won’t act like I’ve done this before. Into the Alps we go.