Ian Boswell faces new decision after Unbound Gravel win – whether to become a professional cyclist again

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SAN MARCOS, Calif. (VN) – In the weeks following Ian Boswell’s Unbound Gravel win, his phone started ringing – a lot.

Bike brands, fellow racers, and gravel teams reached out with sponsorship opportunities revolving around him racing full-time on the American Gravel Circuit. Boswell, who retired from WorldTour road racing in 2019, said the offers made him consider a question he never thought he would face after retirement – whether or not to return to the life of a professional cyclist.

“I really haven’t made a decision – I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do,” Boswell said. VeloNews. “I’m 30, and mentally it was a transition to get to where I am – accepting that I’m no longer a professional runner.

Unlike several other WorldTour pros who have chosen gravel, Boswell doesn’t consider himself a full-time runner. He is employed in the marketing department of Wahoo Fitness. His job title is “Athlete Liaison” and he helps manage the army of brand-sponsored athletes, as well as assist with on-site event marketing.

The job allows him to cycle sometimes 20 hours a week, but Boswell said there is an important distinction between himself and full-time professional riders in the American gravel scene.

He doesn’t get paid to ride his bike – Wahoo pays him to attend marketing calls, answer emails, and look at spreadsheets.

“You always want to do your best [at races] but I went through this transition, and it doesn’t matter if I win or lose more, ”said Boswell. “Whether it’s Wahoo or Specialized, nobody’s saying ‘Hey, you gotta win this race.’ I don’t have any performance bonus in any of my contracts because I hadn’t planned to play.

Boswell credited this no-pressure mentality with helping him win Unbound Gravel in June. He survived the chaos of the start of the 2021 edition to be part of the elite top group alongside former WorldTour riders Peter Stetina, Ted King and Laurens ten Dam, as well as reigning Unbound Gravel champion Colin Strickland .

Boswell then withstood Stetina’s late attacks and reached the finish line alongside Ten Dam, whose Gravel Locos race victory two weeks before Unbound Gravel made him a pre-race favorite.

As the two cycled through the city center, Emporia Boswell led the sprint, and her high tempo kept ten Dams from returning. The victory came as a surprise and at the finish line Boswell said time and time again that his lack of expectations had helped him psychologically endure the brutal 205 mile race.

“The most important thing was to have zero expectations,” said Boswell on arrival. “I came here to try to perform, but there’s no pressure on me from any partner or anything.”

This Unbound Gravel victory propelled Boswell into the international spotlight, and in the days following the race he answered more interview requests than he ever had as a WorldTour road racer. Unbound Gravel’s meteoric rise as the Super Bowl of gravel cycling has drawn media attention – and life-changing job opportunities – to some of its previous winners.

After winning the 2019 edition, Colin Strickland was offered the opportunity to join the WorldTour EF Education-Nippo team to participate in the Belgian classics.

Strickland turned down the deal, and in the months following his victory he was able to add sponsors Rapha, Wahoo Fitness and other brands to his line of existing sponsors for gravel racing. Boswell could probably compile his own line of personal sponsors to fund his races – but these deals often feature performance bonuses for wins that add pressure to a runner’s schedule.

Boswell said another factor weighs on his decision. He and his wife, Gretchen, are expecting their first child in December. And his life away from cycling has also changed dramatically since hanging up his crampons. Today, he is a member of the volunteer fire department in the town where he lives. And he and Gretchen are now dog owners.

The impact of returning to running full time on this new life is something to consider.

“I don’t want to be out for five months of the year – I barely got back to Vermont this summer,” he said. “I have my wife and my house, plus running and working. Adding a child is a whole other department in the proverbial grocery store – can I handle all of those departments? “

There are factors that lead Boswell to consider a full-time career in gravel. Could he create a running program that allows him to work and also to run? Could he create a program that also funds charitable projects, or his desire to give back to cycling? It’s an attractive item that Boswell said he would absolutely consider.

“To be at the top sporting level you have to be very selfish, and you take a lot from cycling, whether it’s free race entries or sponsors, or time away from family – you take a lot of people, ”said Boswell. “Whatever I do, I want to make sure what I have found this year which is to give back.”

Whatever decision he makes, Boswell is likely to remain a staple in races. In what capacity is still open to debate.

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