Joe Dombrowski (Team Cannondale) steps off the team bus and into the sunshine. The 24-year-old is cool, calm and confident ahead of his first Giro d’Italia, a race he has “always wanted to do.”
“I think I am hitting it just right in terms of my own condition coming into the race,” Dombrowski says. “I’m feeling good, just really looking forward to just getting these Holland stages out of the way to be honest. I think it is going to be pretty flat and nervous.
“I mean for the GC guys there is not a lot to be gained, but a lot to be lost, so I’m sure it is going to be tense at times, but if we can get through this safe then I’ll be looking forward to when we get down to Italy.”
Dombrowski and his fellow Team Cannondale teammates would make it through the first three stages in The Netherlands without incident, a huge plus in a Giro that includes a difficult final week of racing in the Alps. The skinny American climber will be relied upon heavily when the road turns upward, to help team leader Rigoberto Uran — a two-time Giro runner-up — to a possible maglia rosa.
The Virginia native’s road to the Giro began back in the winter as he began ratcheting up his training, but not in the way one might think. Dombrowski spent considerable time in the gym building muscle mass to begin the season, though he’s “slimmed down again” in preparation for the Giro.
“Yeah I put on some good functional muscle mass, but now I’m down to about 65 kilos, so I’ll retain some of that [muscle mass],” Dombrowski said with a smile. “But I had to be not fat for three weeks of riding around Italy.”
The fourth-year pro has had a quiet spring, but considering the sickness that has seemed to derail many riders this year, quiet seems to be good. Dombrowski raced neither Paris-Nice nor Tirreno-Adriatico where the peloton was faced with terribly cold conditions that included rain and snow. Dombrowski preferred to do solid blocks of training with one-week stage races mixed in.
“When you are racing a lot you are going to race no matter what the weather is and you’re traveling around with a bunch of people, changing hotels and you’re just a little more susceptible to getting sick,” Dombrowski said. “Whereas when you are in a controlled environment like at home I think it is a bit easier to stay healthy and so that was good.
“I think with [the Giro] kind of being the big goal for the beginning of the season it is important to have consistent training and racing coming into it and if you get sick then that kind of derails that.”
Dombrowski spent two weeks in April with most of his fellow Giro teammates at a team camp on the high-altitude volcano, Tenerife, which has become a popular Grand Tour preparation site among top teams. He then put a few race days in his legs at the Tour de Romandie just before the start of the Giro.
The altitude time seemed to have worked as he helped Cannondale animate the race in Romandie by attacking and helping to position Uran on the mountain stages.
“He’s coming along really nicely,” Team Cannondale CEO Jonathan Vaughters said of Dombrowski in a team release just prior to the start of the Giro. “Joe will likely suffer early on and on the explosive climbs, but when it gets really tough he’ll be there in a big way.
“He may be the key guy in Rigo’s run for the win.”
Dombrowski is no stranger to the pink jersey and the high alpine climbs. He won the under-23 version of the Giro in 2012, which included a stage win atop the Passo dello Stelvio. He will be motivated toward the end of the Giro as the last couple of stages climb through many of his training roads.
But there is a lot of racing to be had between now and then.