Joe Dombrowski will be a key domestique for...

Birthday boy Dombrowski impresses as Giro d’Italia climbs

American Joe Dombrowski finds himself among the top GC riders in the Giro's first uphill finish but remains focused on his domestique role.

ROCCARASO, ITALY (VN) — The climb to Roccaraso stepped like stairs, knocking riders off the back with each ramp. They dangled and then broke until just 23 remained. With one steep pitch to go, and attacks firing off the front, Joe Dombrowski was still there.

It’s been four years since Cannondale’s young climber beat Fabio Aru at the Baby Giro. Now he’s back in Italy for the big show, and Thursday was his first real test. Tasked with defending and supporting team leader Rigoberto Urán, and proving that he has what it takes to ride support in the big mountains of the final week, Dombrowski passed stage 6’s test with flying colors.

“Joe is on the way to a great second part of the Giro,” said Cannondale director Fabrizio Guidi. “He is improving day by day, and today he shows that he’s there. He’s confident, motivated. We want to keep this motivation for the last two weeks.”

Dombrowski, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Thursday, finished on the same time race as favorite Mikel Landa (Sky) and a handful of seconds behind Urán, who followed moves in the final meters. He was the last domestique standing for Urán, even as GC favorites like Tom Dumoulin were left without any teammates.

“Maybe there were some questions [about my form], because I was sitting up on all these sprint days. But I’m not here for GC. I’m here to ride for Rigo,” Dombrowski told VeloNews after the stage. The first week was about staying out of crashes, he said, and saving as much energy as possible. He succeeded on both counts.

Dombrowski is still somewhat new to the super-domestique role. He raced the Vuelta a España last year, but the team in Spain was full of stage hunters. It didn’t have a potential overall winner like Urán. The dynamic is different, and the roles are better-defined now. Dombrowski is learning quickly.

“At first I was a little bit nervous, at the bottom, because Rigo [Urán] seemed so relaxed, kinda sitting in the back,” Dombrowski said. “I was like ‘ah, maybe a little too tranquilo,’ but with the wind it was better to sit behind.”

The upcoming stages are rolling, albeit with the difficulties inherent in Italy’s tricky roads. The Chianti time trial follows, then the second rest day, and a few flat stages. As the race heads into the Dolomites and the Alps, the team, and Urán, will once again lean heavily on its young climber.

“I think I can play a big part when we hit week three,” Dombrowski said. “It’s the real mountains.”