Why Ian Boswell decided not to compete in the Life Time Grand Prix racing series

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

In June, the 30-year-old won the Unbound Gravel. Later in the summer, he placed first at BWR Asheville, Rooted Vermont and Vermont Overland. Throughout the season, he has been a rider liaison at Wahoo, produced a podcast and has been a tireless advocate and supporter of the Amani Project, dedicated to increasing opportunities for East African cyclists.

Based on his success in 2021, Boswell could turn pro again.

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

That’s why Boswell decided to pull out of the $250,000 Life Time Grand Prix, a gravel and XC mountain bike off-road racing series.

“I originally signed up because I felt like I had to,” Boswell said VeloNews. “Then I thought about it and realized that this past year was the first time in my cycling life that I got to go to events that I wanted to go to for my own reasons. “I’m all for everybody doing what they want, but this past year has been a lot of fun because I got to do it.”

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

Rather, “cycling wasn’t the only focus of my existence, it wasn’t my job,” he said. “It was a privilege to go and have fun without any pressure or consequences.”

In the weeks since its announcement, the Life Time Grand Prix has attracted much attention from the cycling world amid the now-characteristic praise and harsh criticism. The event is built around six of Life Time’s six marquee offroad races and uses a program-based format to select 60 elite male and female cyclists to compete for prize money. Criticisms included the familiar lament that gravel has been usurped by the professionals and thus will fall prey to governing bodies that there aren’t enough spots for more people to apply.

The positive outcome was that the series was a step towards creating a positive culture around cycling in the US.

Boswell stands firm in the latter judgment.

“When the first announcements of the UCI worlds came out, there was a lot of talk,” he said. “And we still don’t know how that will happen. There’s a sense of ‘gravel is cool and we should keep it that way’. But what if it stays like this for 15 years and stagnates like road racing? Having the foresight to evolve and change is thoughtful. There is a need for people who can handle the big boom in attendance, especially at North American events. Let’s keep taking it and experimenting and see what works. How to develop it, attract more people, help the sport as a whole.”

Boswell said he doesn’t mean to criticize others for the races they choose or how they want to hug the gravel, and that discipline isn’t good and he doesn’t want to judge.

“I’ve come to this point with gravel racing in general, whether it’s Life Time or UCI,” he said. “Everyone is free to do what they want. Who am I talking to? What they earn the most. But it also means that I want to do what I want to do. When I decided to pull my name, it wasn’t against the series or what they were trying to do to increase the race in the US.

“Part of it is commitment. I wouldn’t want to take a spot from someone and drop halfway through the season and say, “hey, I don’t want to end this series.” People are hungry for it.”

While Boswell is still planning a gravel race in 2022, he has yet to reveal the full schedule. He simply 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 is sad to miss next year’s Migration Gravel Race; she will be at her dear friend’s wedding. Plus, a Gray baby will arrive any day.

Needless to say, Boswell will happily watch the Grand Prix between gravel racing, family time and work commitments.

“I’m still a fan of the sport,” he said. “I still love to watch and hear the stories about how the race went. It’s so cool that now you have these different arenas and courses where different riders will excel. If you look at gravel last year, there was no top rider. We’re seeing the evolution of multi-dimensional athletes, which I think is awesome. In my generation, you had to specify. Time trialer, mountain expert, critical racer. Put yourself in a box and stay there. Now the way forward is great – let’s see how many different things you can do.”

It’s better if you can do it all with fun and without pressure.

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