PEZ Talk: Joe Dombrowski
Sometimes a rider comes along and right away you can just tell he has what it takes. We first caught sight of Joe Dombrowski at the Valle d’Aosta stage race, in 2011. Aosta, l’Avenir, the Baby Giro and the U23 Worlds are where the pro talent scouts do their window shopping.
At the Copenhagen Worlds in 2011 we caught up with him for an interview and our positive impression of this young man was nothing but endorsed. Last year he went back to Italy for the Baby Giro – and won it.
He also took 12th on GC in the Tour of California, fourth in the Tour of Utah and 10th in the Tour of Colorado – and he only turned 21 in May of that year and we interviewed him again as a man on the way up.
Dombrowski rode for Trek Livestrong during seasons 2010/11 with the squad becoming Trek Bontrager for season 2012 – but for 2013 made the leap to World Tour with current world number one ranked team, Sky. He’s already tasted victory as part of the successful Sky squad which won the TTT at the Giro del Trentino in April.
But recently the now 22 year-old faced his stiffest challenge yet; the event which rates fourth in the world’s stage races behind le Tour, the Giro and Vuelta – the Tour de Suisse.
Held over nine stages with a mountainous parcours it’s the last big ‘tune up’ for le Tour; the last opportunity for team management to see their riders in action and make selections – and for the favourites to fine tune their form. Despite three crashes Dombrowski was able to show his mettle on Stage Seven taking a top ten placing when the game was well and truly ‘on’ – with Movistar’s Portuguese climber Rui Costa winning the stage and laying the foundations for his overall win.
We caught up with Dombrowski in his Nice home just a few days after his adventures in the land of cuckoo clocks, Toblerone and Fabian Cancellara.
Our first question involved one of our favourite things about Nice – the ‘Socca,’ big hot, hot spicy crepes made from chick pea flour and olive oil. After being formed into a flat cake and baked in an oven on a cast iron pan more than a meter in diameter, the socca’s seasoned generously with black pepper and eaten while hot with the fingers – and it is the business.
PEZ: How’s Nice Joe – and have you sampled the socca, yet?
Joe Dombrowski: I moved in December time but then went home to the US for the holidays and apart from a few trips home, I’ve been living here ever since. Nice is great and yeah, I love the socca, with chick pea flower and olive oil as the main ingredients it’s not bad for you at all.
PEZ: How was Suisse?
It was a bit of a ‘mix and match’ Sky team for the race with what’s pretty much the Tour de France team riding the Dauphine and at a point in the season where maybe you’re a little short on riders for various reasons. I was given a freer role than usual but ended up crashing three times in two days – apart from being pretty banged up I felt I was riding well.
PEZ: Is that the longest race you’ve ridden?
At nine days it’s similar to the Baby Giro in duration; that was 10 days with a rest day. I felt I did pretty well; I didn’t come out of it super fatigued so the duration didn’t have too much of an adverse affect upon me.
PEZ: What was the toughest stage for you?
Stage Three, the one which Sagan won, it was a day of serious climbing and I crashed on a descent, it wasn’t too bad, it was low speed and I just got back up. But then I came down again in the same crash as the one which put Hesjedal out; that cost me a lot of time – I had hoped to test myself on the final climb, that day. But in the event it didn’t matter because I crashed again the next day and lost even more time!
PEZ: What’s the step up from Continental to World Tour like?
It’s a big jump in a lot of ways. You’re obviously racing at a higher level; but the riders are so much more skilful as well as stronger. Then there’s the weather; it’s been pretty demanding in Europe this spring and the races are longer.
And then there’s the whole thing about moving to Europe and adapting to living in Nice – although I have to say that the team has been very supportive. I was home at the end of April for a few weeks to see friends and family – so that was nice. But when I look back, whilst the World Tour is a lot more competitive, the style of racing is different, it’s much more controlled but when it’s fast – it’s really fast.
The smaller races have amateur teams, they’re not so well organised and the racing is just a different style. In Suisse the first 60/70 K was really hard until the break established; but for the next couple of hours it was super easy – I was telling my dad that he could have ridden chunks of that race!
PEZ: And how has your training changed?
The main change is in volume to get me equipped for the longer races. I still do the same IT work outs as I used to but like I say, just more time on the bike because you need the volume to prepare you for the longer stage races.
PEZ: It must have been a disappointment, Bobby Julich leaving Sky?
Bobby got in touch last June, he was my first contact with Sky and he kept in touch with me throughout the season. Then when Ian Boswell and I were going to sign with the team he met us in Nice and showed us around – he lives here. He’s a great guy and former pro himself so yeah, it was disappointing.
PEZ: Who coaches you now?
Shaun Stevens has joined the team as performance coach, he comes from a triathlon background – he lives in Nice and Ian and I go motor pacing with him. As I explained, my training hasn’t changed too much from when Jeremiah Bishop was my coach in my Trek days – but now that I’m on the team, I have to work with team staff.
PEZ: How’s the recovery been after Suisse?
I’ve been back in Nice for three days and been taking it easy. Next up it’s the Tour of Austria on the 30th so I want to get some good training before that. Some of the parcours has been affected by landslides so I’m not sure how that will affect the race. This year has been bad for that; in Suisse they took one of the climbs out because of avalanche risk – and even the Giro was affected.
After Austria the team has a training camp in Nice, which is good for me because I live here. I’m going to have family over during that time – so I’m looking forward to that. Then it’ll be Poland and Burgos; we’re Riding Colorado but not Utah – that’s a pity because it’s at altitude too and would have been excellent preparation for Colorado. I’m not sure if we’re riding the Tour of Alberta but we’re definitely riding the two Canadian World Tour races.
PEZ: How did your spring campaign go?
Yeah, good, I rode Oman, that’s a nice low key start – big roads and good weather. Then Tirreno, Pays Basque and Trentino. Those races were a great learning experience for me because I got to ride with Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Richie Porte. Chris and Richie live in Monaco so I train with them pretty frequently – there’s a good group to go out with, Geraint Thomas lives there, too.
PEZ: How’s Brad?
I’ve not heard so much about him but according to his Twitter feed he’s back in training in Mallorca. I would imagine that he’ll be targeting a strong second half to the season.
PEZ: And what are you looking for out of the second half of the season?
The first half of my season I rode a lot of World Tour races, the second half is a little more low key. My role will be a little different – I’ll have more freedom in Austria, for example. And in Colorado I’m hoping to have opportunities for myself – it’d be good to show myself at home.