Joe Dombrowski said the experience of racing the...

Dombrowski on racing Vuelta: ‘A rite of passage’

American Joe Dombrowski is racing his first grand tour in Spain, and tells VeloNews the experience will be good for his career.

ESTEPONA, Spain (VN) — Joe Dombrowski is rolling along in his first grand tour at the Vuelta a España. The warm Costa del Sol sunshine and three weeks of racing ahead is welcome for the American on Cannondale-Garmin.

Dombrowski, after showing much promise in his first two years with Sky and successful surgery to fix an arterial issue, “needed” to ride a grand tour before he finished off his third season as a professional.

“Yes, it’s almost like a rite of passage. The experience will be worth a lot,” the 24-year-old told VeloNews.

“The experience is a good thing, but there are no real set goals. If I’m still up there after 10 days, maybe we can look at the GC, if not, then stages. I need to get that experience and help Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky.”

Dombrowski was one of the hottest amateur prospects at the end of 2012 after his win in the Baby Giro d’Italia and his 12th-place finish in the Amgen Tour of California. Sky, which won the Tour de France that year with Bradley Wiggins, scooped him up on a two-year deal. Great things were expected.

Dombrowski suffered some knee issues, but the bigger problem was the hardened and obstructed artery in his left leg. He had surgery, but it took him out of action. He switched over to Cannonade last winter.

Greatness may still come. Followers saw a glimpse of it when Dombrowski won the queen stage and the overall Tour of Utah title earlier this month.

“It was very motivating to be off the bike for a long time and away from racing, it was a good reset, for sure,” Dombrowski added.

“The dream [is to try to win a grand tour some day], for sure, you don’t think you just rock up and win, you have to get that experience in the first one, then look for the GC or top 10 in the next one. Everyone’s progression is different, but it takes time.”

Dombrowski’s time began in the famous beach town of Marbella on Saturday. His job is to help Martin and Talansky in the Vuelta, but also to see how far he can go.

“It’s a new territory for me. I don’t know how I’ll be in the second or third week. There’s only one way to find out,” he said.

“You do a WorldTour stage race, that’s a week long, and you think that that’s hard, and you can’t imagine doing three of them back to back. I don’t fear anything, really. I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of it. It’s tough wrapping your head around it.”