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Joe Dombrowski: “The plan is to start the Vuelta”

When I spoke with Joe Dombrowski, he was in the French Alps, at Isola 2000, where he was preparing for the Tour de Suisse, which starts today. A rider with a huge potential for the stage races, the young American isn’t bothered anymore by the knee problems that troubled him in the first months of the year and is confident his season will become better and better from now on. Then, if he will be injury-free and will reach a good level in August, Joe Dombrowski will start the Vuelta, where there’s a strong chance for him to be among the protagonists and show why everybody tipped him as a future Grand Tour winner since 2012, when he was first in the Girobio.

– Joe, how would you describe your season so far?

So far it has been a bit of a slow start really, because I had a knee injury in the spring, so my first real race was the Tour of California. I did that and it went well, and then I came back to Europe and I started Bayern Rundfahrt, but unfortunately I had a crash in stage two and I had to go to the hospital and got some stitches. I’ve really not done so many race days yet, but I’m working forward to the Tour de Suisse and I’m getting my rhythm, even though I’ve had a slow start.

– What are the differences between your first season as a pro and your second one?

The biggest difference is the familiarity. Last year I was moving to a new team, a different country and there is a lot of changes, while this year I already had an apartment set up in Nice and I felt a bit like home. I know the area, everything was more familiar and you know what are you getting yourself into, while in your first year you’re doing all those World Tour races, you’re in a new team, new environment, it’s a big step up in terms of the level of the riders you are competing against. There is also a big lifestyle change, especially for us, the Americans.

– What did you improve this season?

There’s been on and off the bike improvements. Off the bike there is a big life change, setting myself in Nice. On the bike, with the injury I had this spring, I wasn’t really able to train a lot, but in the winter I’ve did a lot of gym and tried to work on my overall strength which should give me a lot of power and resilience.

– How important was the Tour of California for your confidence?

I think it was really important, because I didn’t have weeks of real training for California, and it was a big goal for the team with our sponsor 21st Century Fox, it was a big objective for them from the start, behind the Tour de France they really wanted to win the Tour of California as well. I wanted to do a good ride and support Bradley Wiggins in the mountain stages, it was a big step after a rough start, and gave me the confidence I really needed for the other races.

– Do you feel any pressure for getting that first win?

Yes, a little bit. There’s not pressure from the team, as we have great riders who get the wins, but there’s some pressure from yourself to perform, because everybody is getting to this level, by being driven and competitive athletes, so I think we all want to do well. Once you step up to World Tour racing it becomes more of a job and is not like in the amateurs where we all raced for ourselves. For myself I’d like to get some results this year, maybe not in the big races where we may have a Froome or Wiggins, but in some of the smaller races where the young guys can get more opportunities. Something like the Tour of Austria, Tour de L’Ain, or Vuelta a Burgos.

– With what goals will you start the Tour de Suisse?

We are bringing Wiggins to Suisse and he’ll be our GC leader. They are still trying to figure out what will our Tour de France team is going to be and some of the guys from the Tour de Suisse will be looking for a Tour de France spot. As for me, I hope I can help Bradley in some of the mountain stages, and just be there. That way, I think you can still show yourself in some of the key moments of the race.

– Did you get to talk with the team about a possible start in the Vuelta?

Yes, we talked at the beginning of the season and the plan is to start the Vuelta at the end of the year, I will really love to do that race, especially now that I had such a slow start to the season. I think it will work really well because Vuelta is late in the year and sometimes it’s good to go in these races fresher.

– And with what thoughts will you go there?

I guess it will depend on who will be sent as the leader. If there will be only young guys, then maybe I will get the chance to ride for the GC there without too much pressure, just being at the front in the important moments. If we will have a big rider who is going to be our GC leader, then I will also be ok with supporting him in the mountains and maybe try to get a stage win. If I will do that, it will be great. To ride the Vuelta will also be important for my experience, as you learn and grow a lot in your first three-week race.

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