After a strenuous first half to the season, Joe Dombrowski returned to a place he knows best, the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, to relax and reset for the second half of the 2016 season.
The lean 25-year-old American climber returned stateside did what many his age do during the summer — he hung out with friends, drank beer, and drooled over cars. He also signed a two-year contract extension with Cannondale-Drapac.
“I feel I fit really well into this team and it’s a good place for me to grow as a rider,” Dombrowski told CyclingTips. “It’s a place I enjoy being. A lot of my teammates are close friends, and any time we are out on the road we have a lot of fun. It’s a place I have had a lot of opportunities and the coaching situation with Jonathan Vaughters is working really well.”
“It’s continuity too,” Dombrowski added. “If something is working and you’re happy somewhere, then it’s always nicer to stay than change things around again.
Dombrowski had a stellar performance at the Giro d’Italia, his first crack at the “big one” after winning the amateur version in 2012. In May, Dombrowski climbed his way to third place on the penultimate stage, on a course that traversed many of the roads he trains on when he’s in his adopted European home of Nice, France.
Dombrowski continued his run of good form at the Tour de Suisse, but was keen to make his way home after a tough first half to the season, which saw him toe the line 53 times. He was given the freedom of eight days completely off the bike and after spending the first few in Nice he made his way to London before finally returning stateside.
“This year I did Romandie, Giro, and Suisse, and then after Suisse I took eight days completely off the bike,” Dombrowski said. “I was in Nice for a few days and then I was in London for a while and then I came back home. Basically, I was just hanging with my friends and having fun. I think mentally I had a really good reset. Even after eight days off, even the first week I was training again, it was pretty mellow.”
A new contract can sometimes be a cause for celebration, so Dombrowski went out and got himself a new car. “If I was stressing over a new contract and whether I was going to re-sign or not I probably wouldn’t have got it,” Dombrowski said.
His new ride? A 1988 Porsche 911 Carerra 3.2 Coupe — a car three years older than he is.
“I have always thought they were really cool cars,” Dombrowski said. “Obviously the new ones are super cool and really fast and fun to drive, but I’ve always been kind of drawn to the older ones. I’ve been looking around for a few years and I’ve called about some different cars, but it’s one of those things you really have to do your research and know the market before you get one of those.”
It turns out Dombrowski’s boss, Vaughters, is also a 911 fan, and suggested to him a few years ago he get one before the prices go up. “It turned out he was actually right,” Dombrowski said. “The turbos are two to three times the cost they were just a couple years ago. It’s crazy because you don’t really think a car is a good investment, because it’s usually just money down the drain.”
With a new contract and a new car, the only thing that seemed to be missing was a nice cold beer. Dombrowski didn’t need to search for long, as he is brewing his own, called “Dombrewski.”
“We got a sample out of the rum barrel about two weeks ago or so,” Dombrowski said. “The beer tasted slightly different because it’s still continuing the aging process, and at this point in time there’s no carbonation, so it’s flat. I got a pretty good feel for what it was like and it’s super good.
“It’s kind of like a Belgian Ale, so it’s pretty heavy beer and what I was most surprised about to be honest was that the aging in the rum barrel adds a pretty unique sort of rum flavor to it and even smell. It smells like rum. Obviously it’s not a huge batch, so the circulation won’t be great, but I would definitely like to get some to friends and family.”
Dombrowski’s beer isn’t one for lightweights, as it has a 8.5% alcohol content — a bit ironic coming from a 143-pound (65kg) cyclist. “I’m a climbing cyclist, and I can also tell you I’m also a lightweight,” he said.
Dombrowski said he is enjoying his midsummer break, but soon it will back to work. He’s looking to defend his title at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah at the beginning of August before doubling-down on Grand Tours for the season and starting the Vuelta a España.
The Virginia resident leaves for Utah on Wednesday, where he’ll stay in Park City to acclimate to the altitude, keeping with the same preparation as last year. “It worked out really well, because you can get acclimated to the race, which is important for the race itself, but also the time training out at altitude beforehand and then doing the race kind of serves as an altitude camp,” Dombrowski said.
“It’s a nice way of doing it because Park City is a much nicer place to be, to train in and to hang out in, than Tenerife. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, actually. It should be super fun, and last year we had a good crew and a lot of my teammates were out there as well, so there were always guys to train with.”
The Utah champion admitted has hasn’t taken a look at this year’s route yet. “To be honest, I haven’t. I should, but I haven’t really looked at the route at all,” Dombrowski said. “I know the last few stages are the same. It’s a nice race in general, pretty low stress, and the weather is good.
“Racing in America, everything is so familiar. It’s just little things that no one would ever really think about. You turn on the TV in your hotel room after the stage and it’s TV you would actually watch, and not RAI, in Italian. You realize how comfortable you are at home in your home country.”
Dombrowski is training for Utah with a classic two-a-days schedule, riding in the morning, riding in the evening, and a bit of weights mixed in for good measure.
“The hard part is going to be, ‘I went out this morning and have to go back out this evening,’” Dombrowski explained. “It’s getting in kit again and going out, just kind of being like, ‘I’m not feeling this.’”
A heavy first half of racing this season means Dombrowski has a solid base, so after his time off he is working on getting intensity back in his legs.
“It’s been a lot of high end and intensity, and shorter specific stuff, because with the Giro and Suisse I already have so much volume and now there has been a focus on high-end power,” Dombrowski said. “Also, I go to altitude in a couple days and it’s hard to do that really intense stuff, so now was the time to get that going again.”