Why Ian Boswell has decided not to race the Life Time Grand Prix race series

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2021 has been a banner year for retired WorldTour pro Ian Boswell.

In June, the 30-year-old won Unbound Gravel. Later in the summer, he finished first at BWR Asheville, Rooted Vermont and Vermont Overland. Throughout the season, he has worked as an athlete liaison at Wahoo, produced a podcast and has been a tireless advocate and supporter of Project Amani, an organization dedicated to increasing opportunities for aspiring professional cyclists in East Africa.

Due to his accomplishments in 2021, Boswell could have turned pro again.

However, that would have meant giving up the exact thing that got him to gravel in the first place: having fun.

And it’s the same reason why Boswell opted out of the recently launched Life Time Grand Prix, an off-road racing series for gravel and XC mountain bikes with a $250,000 prize pool.

“I signed up initially because I felt that was what I was supposed to do,” Boswell said VeloNews. “Then, I thought about it and realized that last year was the first time in my cycling life that I got to participate in the events that I wanted to participate in for my own reasons. I’m all for everyone doing what they want, but this past year was so much fun because I got to do me.

When Boswell asked why 2021 was such a good year, the answers weren’t that he was offered more bike sponsorships, brand partnerships, or even quitting his 9-5 job at Wahoo.

Rather, “bike racing wasn’t the only focus of my existence, it wasn’t my job,” she said. “It was a privilege to go and enjoy myself without any pressure or consequences.”

In the weeks since it was announced, the Life Time Grand Prix has garnered warm attention from the cycling world, in the now typical binary of lavish praise and scathing criticism. The event is structured around six of Life Time’s six off-road races and used an app-based format to select 60 elite male and female riders to compete for prize money. The criticisms ranged from the familiar lament that shingle is being usurped by professionals and will therefore become a victim of governing bodies to the fact that there weren’t enough places for more people to apply.

Positive opinion was that the series was a step towards creating a positive culture around bike racing in the United States.

Boswell is firmly in the latter court.

“It was like when the first UCI Worlds announcements came out, there was so much talk,” he said. “And we still don’t know what it will be like. There’s such a sense of ‘gravel is so beautiful and we have to keep it that way’. But what if it stays that way for 15 years, and if it becomes stagnant the way street racing gets stagnant? Having the foresight to evolve and change is thoughtful. And especially North American events need people who can embrace the huge attendance boom. We continue to embrace it and experiment and see what works. How to enhance it, involve more people, help sport as a whole”.

Boswell said he doesn’t think criticizing others for what races they choose to do or how they want to embrace gravel is good for the discipline, nor does he want to pass judgment.

“I’ve gotten to this point with gravel racing in general, whether it’s Life Time or UCI,” he said. “Everyone is free to do what he wants. Who am I to say? Whatever they find most rewarding. But that also means I want to do what I want to do. When I decided to bring up my name it wasn’t anything against the series or what they’re trying to do to improve racing in the US, it just isn’t for me.”

“In part it is also an obligation. I didn’t want to take away someone’s spot and come mid-season and be like, ‘hey, I don’t want to finish this show.’ People are hungry for this.”

While Boswell still has plans to race gravel in 2022, he has yet to release a full calendar. That’s right: he wants the freedom and flexibility to participate in the competitions that appeal to him. He confirmed that he will return to Emporia in June and complained about having to miss next year’s Migration Gravel Race; he will be at a close friend’s wedding. Plus, there’s a little Boz arriving every day.

It goes without saying that Boswell will happily follow the Grand Prix between gravel races, family time and work commitments.

“I’m still a fan of the sport,” he said. “I still enjoy following, hearing the stories about how the race went. It’s so cool that now you have these different arenas and courses that different riders will excel at. If you look at gravel last year, there wasn’t a better rider. We are seeing the evolution of multidimensional athletes which I think is fantastic. In my generation, you had to specify. Time trial, mountain specialist, critical runner. Put yourself in a box and stay there. Now the way forward is interesting – let’s see how many different things you can do.

Even better if you can do everything having fun, without pressure.

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