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Joe Dombrowski: “I want to ride a Grand Tour in 2014”

Joe Dombrowski is one of the most promising riders in the pro peloton, but before coming into road cycling, he started in mountain bike, thanks to some high school friends, who used to take him to the trails on the week-ends. He was hooked and soon began to dream of becoming a professional rider. With the help of Jeremiah Bishop, a good friend and training partner, Joe made some important steps in his career and in 2011 signed with Trek-Livestrong, the Continental team managed by Axel Merckx.

In his two seasons there, he had plenty of opportunities to show his talent: after a stage win and a second place overall in the Giro della Valle d’Aosta in his first year, the young American had his breakthrough season in 2012, when he had top 10 placings in the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. As if this wasn’t enough to make some World Tour teams interested in signing him, Joe won the Girobio, the first American to do so.

After these impressive results, he eventually signed with Sky, but things didn’t go as he planned in the first part of 2013, because of an ongoing knee injury. With the help of his management company, Trinity Sports Management, I’ve got in touch with Joe Dombrowski, and he answered to a couple of questions about his season and future plans.

– Joe, how was the step from Continental to World Tour?

It’s a demanding step. Leap is probably more appropriate. The racing is faster obviously, but it quickly becomes apparent quality, and depth of the fields you are racing against. Everyone is fit, everyone is focused, everyone is a good bike handler etc. All that, combined with more race days, over the course of a longer season makes for a tough, but manageable transition from amateur to professional.

– What expectations did you have when signing with Sky?

I could see from my initial talks with them that they had a highly organized structure. They’ve done things differently than other cycling teams, investing a larger portion of their budget in rider support. At Sky, you have a personal coach, a nutritionist, and a psychologist all at your disposal in addition to the staff that is traditionally part of a cycling team. After seeing that, I expected that it would be a highly organized system with a strong focus on data analysis and constant rider/coach contact. I saw that as a good opportunity for me to continue my development as a young rider.

– Did you adapt to living in Europe? How was this process?

I would say that I am still adapting to living in Europe. Honestly, the process was difficult. I would say that moving to Europe, and continuing to get the best out of myself as a cyclist, was maybe the most challenging thing that I encountered in my first year. I learned a lot over the course of this first year, and I think it puts me well ahead of where I was at this point last year. I’ll look forward to returning to the familiarity of an apartment I can call my own in Nice this winter. In addition, I’ll have a roommate next year in Larry Warbasse, so I’ll look forward to the company of a fellow American while I’m in Europe. I think it’s important not to underestimate how important feeling comfortable abroad is when you want to be performing your best over there.

– How is your knee? Are your problems over?

My knee is fine. I seemed to be over the knee problems by mid-May. I think there was a few contributing factors. For one, when Team Sky took over my training, one thing they did was dramatically increase the volume. That increase in volume combined with a change in equipment left my knee pretty aggravated early on in the year. The cold, wet weather we had in Europe this Spring didn’t help either.

– Amid so many disappointments caused by your injuries, where there any positive things you can take from this season?

Yes, I think so. I’d look at any of those disappointments as learning opportunities. Moving forward, I think it just prepares me better for the season ahead.

– What’s your best memory from 2013?

Coming back to race in the US at the USA Pro Challenge. I had a lot of family that was out to watch me race. I had raced over in Europe for quite a while at that point, and I was really looking forward to returning home to race in the US, and in front of my friends and family.  I also really enjoyed racing in Japan at the tail end of the season. Japan cup was a great one day race, and we had some free time to explore Japan a bit after the race was finished. It is a beautiful country and I would love to go back!

– Do you regret not riding the Giro, as was the plan at the beginning of the season?

No. I think it was a wise decision to omit that from my race programme this year. My knee, as it was this Spring, would have left a big question mark in my ability to complete the race. In addition, I don’t want to take the spot of a strong support rider who can consistently deliver, when in some sense I would have been there gaining experience. I wouldn’t want to go there feeling like a liability, particularly with the goals that the team had in mine. I want to go, do a good job, and be seen as a valuable asset to the team.

– Could you race there next year? Have you seen the route?

It’s a possibility. I want to do a grand tour next year. I have looked through the route, briefly. It looks nice. I would love to participate. I love racing in Italy.

– Speaking of this, do you have any idea how will your calendar for 2014 look like?

Not yet. I head to the team’s first camp in Mallorca in early December. I should get a rough idea of what my calendar will look like there.

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