MUSCAT (VN) — When “Neo-pro Joe” Dombrowski settles down for dinner in the Shangri-la dining room this week, across from him sit his Tour of Oman teammates, and last year’s top Tour de France finishers, Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
The 21-year-old rookie must pinch himself. Only last year he was at home in Marshall, Virginia, planning to race local U.S. events.
“In some ways yes and in some ways no,” Dombrowski told VeloNews. “You sit down to dinner and they are all just normal guys. They are superstars in the sport of cycling, but they don’t really carry themselves that way.”
Dombrowski is smart, articulate, but somewhat in awe.
“I feel that more on the bike and in the peloton,” he said. “You look around and see the guys that you’ve seen racing on TV in the Tour de France. And now here you are racing with them, that’s pretty cool.”
Sky signed him and another promising American star, Ian Boswell, over the off-season. Dombrowski raised eyebrows when he became the first U.S. rider to win the amateur Giro d’Italia in 2012. He loves Italy, its races and its food. However, he and Boswell established camp just over the border on the French Riviera in Nice.
“I haven’t met any French girls yet,” Dombrowski said. “It could be an interesting experiment. How far am I going to get, though, not speaking French? Maybe they’re looking for an American. An American and a cyclist.”
They would be interested. He’s tall, baby-faced, and plays the violin. In exchange, he would have a chance to expand his Euro-circle to cover more than just cycling.
Mrs. Dombrowski, Valerie, would be pleased. Wanting to help her son, she followed him to Nice to establish Joe in his apartment.
“She was great. She’d never been to Europe. I only had one set of keys, but she went to some locksmith and got three sets made. I don’t know how she made that happen,” said Dombrowski. “I’d go out on a training ride and come back and the apartment would be spotless.”
On his own now, he finds the little things challenging. Setting up Internet service was painful. He made repeated calls, only to go online and see his U.S. credit card rejected due to different European security standards.
“I can’t get Internet,” he said. “[The process] eats up a whole afternoon.”
Cycling is on his mind, though, mid-way into the Tour of Oman, his first professional race.
Pack riding is not yet Dombrowski’s strong point. Seasoned pro Christian Knees has guided him over Oman’s roads as he did Wiggins in the Tour de France last summer.
“People don’t realize how argy-bargy [racing] is,” Dombrowski said. “When you watch it on TV it looks like everybody just nicely rides together and occasionally there’s a crash, but it’s like a constant fight for position.”
Dombrowski will be fighting a lot alongside Wiggins as Sky scheduled him to ride the Giro d’Italia. Sir Wiggins aims to win it before pointing towards the Tour.
It is music to Dombrowski’s ears because, he explained, “The grand tour I want to ride the most is the Giro.”