COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (VN) — Asked, point blank, if he could win the Tour de Suisse, American neo-pro Joe Dombrowksi was coy.
“Could I win Suisse? I don’t think I could win Suisse — maybe a stage. But then again? Well, I don’t… I don’t think I could win Suisse. But there’s a lot of contenders at the [Critérium du] Dauphiné…”
The overall winner of last year’s “Baby Giro d’Italia,” Dombrowski, 22, is in his first professional season at Sky and has, thus far, worked for major stage racing talents like Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins, and Richie Porte.
But on Saturday, as the Tour de Suisse opens, the spritely climber will have the freedom to roam in the mountains, and pursue a result of his own.
“Originally, they were talking about Bradley [Wiggins] doing it, and that was the big question. We didn’t know if he was going to be doing Suisse or not, and we didn’t know whether he was going to be doing the Tour or not. And with Richie [Porte] and Chris [Froome] at the Dauphiné, and what I would assume what they’re looking at for the Tour team, it just left a sort of squad of whoever happened to not be racing at the time,” Dombrowski told VeloNews.
The Tour of Switzerland represents an opportunity for Dombrowski, and some of Sky’s lesser-known riders, to shine, as they aren’t in the service of a grand tour contender, or winner, when they take the start Saturday.
Sky will bring Dombrowski, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke , Joshua Edmondson , Bernhard Eisel , Mathew Hayman , Gabriel Rasch , Luke Rowe, and Ben Swift to the Tour de Suisse.
“It’s really my first race I’ve done with this team where there hasn’t been a Wiggins or a Froome or a Porte or a big GC name there. I haven’t talked to the directors yet about exactly what they’re looking for from me, but they have said that it’s going to be a race where there are going to be opportunities for some of the younger guys on the team,” Dombrowski said.
The nine-stage race features two big mountain stages, one of which has a Category 1 uphill finish at the ski station of Crans-Montana.
There are four lumpy stages where time shouldn’t be lost by the general classification contenders, if things play out as expected. There’s also a harsh individual time trial on the race’s final day, with the final 10 kilometers uphill. All told, it sorts out well enough for Dombrowski to hope to place reasonably well on GC.
“I think it’s going to be a good opportunity after this spring of playing a support role, and maybe ride GC. And if not go for the whole thing, go for a stage or something at some point,” he said.
On Saturday, he’ll try not to lose to much time in the opening time trial, and on day two, the first road stage, it’s all guns blazing, as the peloton finishes on a difficult category 1 climb — Dombrowski’s specialty.
“I think they’d like me to go for it on that second day, and if I ride well and I can stay up there on GC, then that’s great, because the final time trial sort of suits me as well in that it also finishes on a hard climb,” Dombrowski said. “I think they’d like me to sort of target that first road stage, but at the same time they don’t really want to put pressure on me and make me feel like I have to get a result. It’s a bit more of a, I guess, low-stress, open-format race than we’re used to.”