Last November, right before Joe Dombrowski headed off to his new life in Nice, France and team Sky, I had the opportunity to talk with him for three hours at his family home in Virginia.
That interview later became a profile in Cycle Sport magazine and with Dombrowski just now finishing up his first year with Sky, it’s a good time to revisit some of the quotes from that story.
The kid who dominated the U23 ranks while riding for Bontrager-Trek has put in a pretty solid neo-pro year with Sky. “I’ve enjoyed it,” Dombrowski told Velonews. “Sky is definitely a good first team to come to. In a race, I’ve learned about riding as a team and being efficient in the peloton.”
That’s pretty exciting news for fans of Dombrowski because a good many people believe he has the talent to win a grand tour someday. That’s crystal ball talk but when I spoke with Joe, that was the end goal. “Ultimately, what I see myself potentially doing is being a great GC rider in grand tours. Whether that’s reality, I don’t know. That’s the dream.”
It was in speaking with Joe’s coach Jeremiah Bishop and his Bontrager DS Axel Merckx that I got an idea of how much concrete reality there might be in that dream. “It’s not too speculative: he can go all the way. Multi-time grand tour winner,” said Bishop. “Performance and fitness wise, looking at his train files, his critical power for climbing, his VAM, it all points to sooner than possible. He’s that good.”
Merckx, who has spent his entire life around cycling champions, is just as confident in Dombrowski’s abilities. “I see him in the Giro where the time trials are shorter or the Vuelta where it’s more oriented toward climbers. Does he have the potential to win those? I can tell you today, 200% confident, yes,” said Merckx. “The Tour de France is a different animal. But that kid has surprised me more than once and I won’t put it past him.”
Dombrowski was on Sky’s long list for the Giro d’Italia but the team decided it was too much, too soon. Odds are that with a year to adjust to the pro level, Dombrowski will make the cut in 2014. “I’ve always thought the Giro was the coolest race. If I could win any bike race, that would be the one,” he told be back in November. “I’m a climber and they always have crazy mountain stages. They’ve had stages on Strade Bianche, they’ve had an uphill dirt road TT. Winning the Tour would be okay, too.”
Dombrowski gave a good natured laugh on that winning the Tour line. He’s got a good sense of humor and a great perspective on what he’s trying to accomplish. We’re expecting bigger things from him for Sky Year Two.