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SNOWBIRD, Utah (VN) — Five years into his pro career and at the advanced age of 24, Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Garmin) is beginning a second phase in cycling with the two-wheeled version of a “clean slate.”
“I’ve kind of looked at this season as a fresh start,” said Dombrowski after riding into the race lead of the Tour of Utah with a solo win Saturday in the mountainous stage 6. “This is like my first year again. I’m just starting from zero and seeing what I can do.”
Dombrowski rode away from climbers that included Vuelta a España winner Chris Horner (Airgas-Safeway) and Tour de France podium finisher Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) on Saturday’s climb to the Snowbird ski resort to become the fourth leader of the weeklong race in four days. He holds a 50-second margin over former race leader Michael Woods (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies). Schleck is third overall, trailing by 1:07.
“I’ve been happy with the progress so far and this is the best yet,” said Dombrowski, whose Utah stage win was his first victory since his stage wins and overall title in the GiroBio in 2012. “I’m looking for the rest of the season and I’m really excited to try to defend tomorrow and win this race overall and then going into the Vuelta in couple of weeks and hopefully do something there.”
Dombrowski, who finished fourth overall in the Amgen Tour of California in May, began the sixth stage in 18th place, trailing Woods by 27 seconds. But with help of teammate and training partner Ben King and a strategic ride with the tailwind of the final climb to the ski resort, Dombrowski wasn’t challenged in the waning miles of the HC ascent.
“I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to go at this race,” said Dombrowski. “My last race was the Tour de Suisse, which was a while ago. It was about time for me to take a break. I was feeling a bit tired. I had some time off the bike.”
Dombrowski’s early success prompted a two-year contract with Sky, but his career halted for nearly two seasons with left leg issues diagnosed as iliac artery endofibrosis. He had surgery and missed most of last season before signing with Cannondale-Garmin last September.
“I trained a couple of weeks at home in Virginia,” said Dombrowski. “But I was just getting going again and not training super hard. I then came out here to altitude and I was taking it a little easy. I hadn’t really put in big training efforts, so I wasn’t sure where I was, so it’s a good confirmation of where I am. I think this is really a perfect setup for the Vuelta.”
Dombrowski’s participation will be his first Grand Tour attempt, and he will ride in a support role — albeit with a slight a caveat.
“I don’t know what our plan is yet,” he said. “I am sure we will have a big GC rider and I will ride for him. But maybe later in the race when the classification is more sorted out, and breakaways get a little more leeway, I can look for an opportunity.”