When Ian Boswell of Bontrager-Livestrong attacked the field on the climb to Snowbird on Saturday, it looked like just another attack in the high mountains. Boswell and his teammate Joe Dombrowski have gained a reputation for aggressive riding when the road turns up and Dombrowski, who counter-attacked after Boswell, finished third at the end of the day.
But Boswell was thinking about more than bike racing. On Saturday his strong legs carried a heavy heart up the mountain, as Boswell raced the stage in memory of a childhood friend, Matt Gold. Two months ago, the 34-year-old Gold was killed in a sky-diving accident in Oregon.
“I rode today for him, and it was a super special today for me and my family,” said Boswell after the stage. “It means a lot to do something like that — to have something special to ride for beyond just results. He helped me today.”
According to Boswell, Gold was a huge supporter of his career. “The Tour of Utah was something special for him and me,” said Boswell. “He was out here every day cheering me on.” Currently, 21 years old, Boswell finished third overall at the 2010 Tour of Utah. This year, Boswell is sitting sixth at 1:03 ahead of the final mountainous day of racing.
Boswell is part of the talented posse of young American rides coming up through the ranks. Together with his teammate Dombrowski, he is a talented climber and has begun to accumulate the results to show for it.
Earlier this year, Boswell finished second behind Dane Michael Valgren Anderson at the U23 edition of the Ardennes classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The April race came at an emotional time for Boswell. “I’ve cried twice before a race,” he said on Saturday. “One was Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year. I was going through some troubles.”
The second time came on Saturday morning before the stage to Snowbird when Boswell watched a video he had made about Gold’s life. As Boswell prepared to race, Gold’s family prepared to celebrate his life in the high mountains that he loved best. “Today, his family came up here with my mom, and they spread his ashes up here, because this this is where he lived in the wilderness, and skied and skydived,” said Boswell.
On the road to Snowbird, Boswell attacked inside the final six kilometers after Gamin-Sharp’s Peter Stetina had whittled down the field. Only a select group of riders remained. The road tilted to the heavens, and Boswell set out to touch the sky.
At the finish, Boswell’s mother and Gold’s family waited, and they fell into a tearful embrace. It was the kind of moment that gives the sport its human face. Under their helmets and behind their mirrored sunglasses, the riders in the peloton sometimes blur into an indistinguishable kaleidoscope of color and speed. A ride like Boswell’s on Snowbird gives us a glimpse of the people inside.
“To ride for him, whether that meant finishing first or last, just to give it my all, it’s something special to have,” said Boswell after the stage. “And I did that today.”