No, Joe Dombrowski won’t be leading out Mark Cavendish at the Giro d’Italia

Expect to see the American stage-hunter at the back when Cavendish is at the front, and vice versa in the mountains.

Photo: Getty Images

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Joe Dombrowski is back on his favorite stage-hunting grounds this month in his eighth career start at the Giro d’Italia, but don’t worry, he won’t be leading out Mark Cavendish in the bunch sprints.

The whippet-thin Dombrowski just laughed when asked if he’s going to be expected to take pulls in the hurly-burly sprints to lead out Cavendish during the Giro.

“You won’t see me in the leadouts,” Dombrowski told VeloNews. “If they need some help pulling back a break, I can do the best I can. If we’re realistic, you won’t see me inside the last few kilometers.”

A stage-winner in 2021, the American climbing ace is saving his matches for when the roads get vertical, and he won’t be bumping shoulders to help Astana-Qazaqstan teammate Cavendish in the mass gallops.

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Somewhat surprisingly, Astana-Qazaqstan didn’t bring that many riders to help Cavendish in the sprints during this Giro.

In July, the team will tap Cees Bol, Dmitriy Gruzdev, and Yevgeniy Fedorov to create a mini-Cavendish train to chase the record 35th stage win at the Tour de France. The team is also expected to bring GC rider Alexey Lutsenko and stage-hunter David de la Cruz.

This month, Cavendish will be called on to surf the wheels after hitting the red kite.

Dombrowski is now fast friends with Cavendish after they shared a room during Tirreno-Adriatico in March.

“He’s a nice guy, I enjoyed his company,” Dombrowski said in a phone interview. “It was fun being roommates, and we had some fun discussions in the room. The team is Italian and Russian-speaking, so having another anglophone in the room wasn’t bad.”

Dombrowski, back for his eighth consecutive Giro start, won’t be seeing much of Cavendish once the flag drops.

The team will help deliver Cavendish into the closing kilometers when he manages to arrive to the line to contest the spring, but Dombrowski will be cooling his jets for the mountain stages looming on the horizon.

Expect to see Dombrowski at the back when Cavendish is at the front, and vice versa in the mountains.

Chasing another stage win

Dombrowski is back for his eighth consecutive Giro d’Italia start. (Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Content to let Cavendish fight for the sprints, Dombrowski has his eyes set on the climbing stage.

Dombrowski, who turns 32 this week, is hopeful of another shot a stage win, and hopes to pull off a similar coup to 2021, when he won his first career grand tour stage and came within shot of the pink jersey.

“I’d love to win another stage, but I don’t see as many opportunities as there are typically in the Giro,” he said. “There are three time trials, and a lot of days for sprinters where a guy like Michael Matthews might survive. There are a bit fewer mountain stages. It looks like the Tour would have a bit more opportunities for a rider like me.”

How to get into the right move at the Giro? It’s a bit of an elimination game to remove the stages that don’t add up, and then going all-in when the stars align.

“If you’re smart and a bit lucky, and find yourself into the right moves, then why not?” he said. “If the condition is good you always have a good chance. It’s a matter of spending your energy wisely and going all-in on certain days.

“If you’re in really good shape and if you’re focused, for three weeks, the chances are there that a good opportunity can arise,” he said. “Sometimes you need luck, too.”

A Giro streak and an outside shot at a Tour return

Astana-Qazaqstan didn’t bring many support riders for Cavendish during this Giro. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Dombrowski returns for his eighth-consecutive career Giro start, a U.S. record.

“I’ve started and finished every Giro since 2016, except when I crashed out in 2021,” he said. “This will be my eighth start.

“The teams always have put me there, and I tend to ride well at the Giro,” he said. “I like racing the Giro, the rhythm and long mountain stages suit me. I guess if something is working, don’t change it.”

Behind the scenes, things were switched up a few times for Dombrowski and his 2023 racing calendar.

Initially, he was penciled in for the Giro, then the team suggested he’d return to the Tour de France, where he debuted in 2022.

After the Tour of the Alps, where he almost won a stage, the team swapped him back for the Giro. A back injury for Yevgeniy Fedorov sealed his return to the Italian grand tour.

“They were short some riders for the Giro and it changed at the last minute,” he said. “So the streak continues.”

There’s still a chance he might go to the Tour, and he proved that he could do it last year when he doubled up, but the emphasis in July will be more on Cavendish than it is during this Giro.

The lead-up to the Giro was far from ideal, and he came down with COVID-19 this spring.

“It was a rough start to the season,” he said. “I was sick at Ruta del Sol, and went home with COVID. I got sick again at Tirreno-Adriatico with just a cold, and then I wasn’t good at Catalunya. I got a skin infection, and it was one thing after another.

“The spring was a bit of a mess, but we rented a house at altitude before the Tour of the Alps, and things started to come together,” he said. “Despite a lackluster start to the season, I am hitting my stride just in time for the Giro.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.