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Dombrowski ends neo-pro year with top-10 finish in Japan

MILAN (VN) — Joe Dombrowski (Sky) ended his neo-pro year with seventh place in the Japan Cup on Saturday. Going from Oman to Japan, racing several big European events along the way, proved an experience for the Virginia native and former Baby Giro winner.

“I came out of the first year learning a lot,” Dombrowski told VeloNews. “I’ll go into next year with a lot better perspective of what I’ll get myself into.”

Rain marked the Japanese one-day race. Dombrowski weathered it well, already indicating he was going to be ready last Monday when he attacked in the Tour of Beijing and helped David López to third overall. His season also included assisting Chris Froome to the Tour of Oman win and learning several lessons.

“Really, I took in everything this season,” he added. “How to operate within a team, fulfilling different roles, getting bottles and jackets, riding at the front, or even having the opportunity as a leader now and then. You learn in each of those positions. Adapting to more racing and harder training. Off the bike, more time in Europe.”

The 22-year-old was one of the hottest amateur prospects at the end of 2012 with his win in the Baby Giro d’Italia, or GiroBio, and 12th in the Amgen Tour of California. Sky scooped him up on a two-year deal and began teaching him some of the secrets that led to the Tour de France wins by Bradley Wiggins and Froome.

Dombrowski made the long list to ride at Wiggins’ side in the Giro d’Italia, but general manager David Brailsford eventually left him out.

“We don’t want to put too much pressure on him to perform,” Brailsford told VeloNews at the time. “In his first year, he just needs time in the shoes. Basically, he just needs to be exposed.”

“Yeah,” Dombrowski continued, “skipping the Giro was probably a good decision.”

This year’s Italian grand tour would have been a trial by fire for Dombrowski. Rain and snow marked the race, forcing the cancellation of one stage and the alteration of others. Midway through, Wiggins and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) abandoned.

“More racing and harder training” caused Dombrowski some knee pain. He had time to deal with it and return strongly in the Tour de Suisse and Tour of Austria. Placing seventh in a rain-soaked Japan Cup, again helping López, ended Dombrowski’s neo-pro year on a high note.

He next travels to the U.S. to spend time with his parents and then to Majorca for a preseason meeting in December. Last year, the meeting introduced him to his team and companions but this year it will allow Dombrowski to plan his next step as a professional. A grand tour is on his radar.

“The team sent me an e-mail just sort of as a feeler to see what I am interested in doing next year,” Dombrowski said. “I said I’d like to get in a grand tour team but I don’t know which one. It depends on who goes where and what the team’s ambitions are.”

This year, Dombrowski’s longest race was nine days in Suisse. Racing the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, or the Vuelta a España would allow him additional experience and to see what his future holds.

Dombrowski added, “I look forward to the racing and training. Having familiarity with it all.”