Joe Dombrowski is hoping he can put the skills...

Dombrowski primed for Giro debut

Joe Dombrowski's professional career started slower than he wanted, but he's hoping to change that this May.

Joe Dombrowski’s story is one of unrealized potential. He hopes to change that in May.

It’s been said by none other than his Cannondale team’s manager Jonathan Vaughters, that if the Tour de France were performed on spin bikes, his young charge would be in with a shot at yellow. But the bright light that shone on Dombrowski’s early years, including a win at the so-called Baby Giro over one Fabio Aru (Astana), has never sparkled on the world’s stage.

His short career has been full of setbacks. There were two disastrous years at Team Sky, then a diagnosis of iliac artery endofibrosis, leading to a lack of blood flow that caused dramatic power loss in his left leg. Surgery in August 2014 made 2015 a rebuilding year, capped off with his first pro stage race victory at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

“Coming off an injury, you just don’t know what’s next. To see that I could be back racing at a high level and winning races was good,” he said. “It put me in a good mindset coming into this year.”

That dominant Utah win was a glimpse of Dombrowski’s talent, but he’s capable of much more. He knows it. And so he heads to Italy in May with the potential to show the world what he’s really made of. His primary mission: learn what it means to race at the front on the world stage.

Dombrowski, 24, won’t lead the Cannondale team; that’s a responsibility too heavy for him now. He’ll ride in support of Rigoberto Urán, who has twice finished second at the Giro. He’ll focus on being Urán’s last man, helping him late in Italy’s mountain stages. It’s not an easy job, particularly since Dombrowski’s difficulties lie on the stretches between the climbs, in fights for position and through crosswinds. He’s tall and not particularly aerodynamic. He isn’t a fighter, yet. But with Urán as his guide, the team is hoping he’ll learn quickly. To do his job, he’ll have to.

“My aerobic power output for 20, 30, 50 minutes is probably among the highest out there,” Dombrowski said, as matter-of-factly as if he were describing the weather outside his window. “That’s definitely not the limiter for me. That pure power to weight, it’s not the problem. But all the other factors can be. The goal is to get where I’m not dropped before we get to the climb, so I can do my thing when I get to the climbs.”

His thing, of course, is climbing faster than just about anyone else in the world. Now he just needs to learn the skills to unleash the motor. The Giro, thankfully, is an excellent teacher.