TELLURIDE, Colo. (VN) — Joe Dombrowski just bought his first car in Europe. He bought a Ford Fiesta. On his Sky salary.
That’s a good starting point, the fact that there isn’t much fancy about the humble kid from Virginia, who’s growing up this year in the peloton’s school of hard knocks, compared to the warm comforts of his old Bontrager squad.
He’s crashing and getting dropped. He’s learning what wheels to hold and which ones to let go. And he now drives a Ford Fiesta around Nice, France.
“Nothing too fancy,” he said in a recent conversation with VeloNews, before heading stateside for the USA Pro Challenge and a block of racing in Canada.
The adjustment to life in Europe, and the pro peloton, is one that’s taken some tinkering. Next year, he’ll do a few things differently.
“I guess I have a bit more perspective on it. Like, there are things that I would change. When I came to Nice, basically the only person who I knew was [teammate Ian] Boswell,” he said. “We talked about living together … we figured maybe we’re good friends, we want to keep it that way. Sometimes you’re around someone so much, and then things can go downhill. One of the things that I’ve found difficult is living by myself in a different country.
“I’ll probably try to find another one of the Americans and have a roommate here and get out a bit and meet people and just establish like a normal life here. Just so that — if you’re not here and you don’t feel like you live here and you don’t feel like it’s home, then it’s hard to be motivated to race well, especially when there’s a lot of compounding things.”
After all, last year he was a big (however thin) fish in a smaller pond. This year? Not so much.
“Last year I went from riding on a U-23 team, where I went to most races as a leader,” he said. “And you’re racing at a lower level, and you’re winning races and you’re getting good results. When everything’s going good, it’s easy. Not that it’s been a bad season for me, but it’s definitely another level up.”
Sky initially planned to race Dombrowski at the Giro d’Italia, but ultimately held him out, which the 22-year-old climber said was the right call. This season, he and Boswell have focused on pure volume of training and racing, something Sky trainers thought they were missing.
“One thing they thought both Ian and I were lacking was just purely volume to get used to WordTour-level stage racing,” Dombrowski said. “At first, that was definitely challenging, because it was a pretty big jump; I was racing more, doing a lot more race days. But between the races, training more than I ever had before … I feel like at this point in the year, I have a better grasp of it, and sort of handling it pretty well.
“One of the big goals from the team for me was just race days. Just getting in more time racing and being more comfortable in the pack and learning how to move through the pack efficiently and understanding different tactical situations in the races.”
He’s not yet sure what his focus will be in Colorado. He finished 10th overall at the USA Pro Challenge last year and won the best young rider’s jersey. His supercharged Sky team is bringing Richie Porte and Chris Froome, two of the best stage racers in the world.
“I did well last year. I think that the race suits me pretty well. Maybe better this year, actually, with the [uphill] Vail TT,” Dombrowski said. “But as to whether I’ll be able to ride for GC, we’ll just see. Richie and Froomey are going to be our leaders there, but I don’t know where they want to use me in that, tactically.”
In either capacity, he’ll line up with guys he watched on TV in July.
“Chris was pretty amazing the whole race. And Richie too. I think if Richie maybe hadn’t had the one bad day when Movistar really drilled it early on, I think he was definitely capable of being on the podium while supporting Chris,” he said. “Super ride from both of them. Pretty cool to see guys that when they’re in Monaco we’ll go out training together … it’s cool to see those guys you’re training with out there sticking it to everyone in the world’s biggest race.”
The Colorado race starts in Aspen next Monday, and the States will soon see what’s left over from July, and in the legs of the young Dombrowski.