Giro d'Italia
Joe Dombrowski was greeted by the crowd at the...

Dombrowski aiming for late-Giro peak

After a rocky start to the 2017 season, American Joe Dombrowski is happy to be at the Giro. He'll target a stage win late in the race.

PALERMO, Italy (VN) — Everyone knows Cannondale-Drapac’s Joe Dombrowski loves the Giro d’Italia.

The 25-year-old climber won the so-called “Baby Giro” in 2012, beating Italian star Fabio Aru to become the first American to win the prestigious U23 race.

Last year’s Giro was a coming-out party, and he was constantly on the attack, riding into several key breakaways, including third in stage 20.

In 2017, he’s hoping to turn dreams into reality. After some hiccups early in his career, a move from Team Sky to Cannondale-Drapac has paid off.

“I’d love to win a mountain stage here,” Dombrowski said. “The good thing about a grand tour is that there are so many opportunities. There are plenty of mountains in this Giro.”

On Sunday three stages into the Giro, Dombrowski crossed the finish line into Cagliari safely out of trouble. With Cannondale-Drapac racing this Giro without a true GC ambitions, the team is holding its firepower for select stages in an attempt to win a stage.

“For a grand tour start, it hasn’t been too high-stress,” he said. “So far, so good.”

The team is packed with potential stage-winners, including Pierre Rolland, Davide Formolo, Michael Woods, and Alex Howes. Dombrowski admits he’s lower on the internal team pecking order, at least right now.

“I haven’t had a good spring. I had a crash in training, and hurt my knee from that, and took some time off,” Dombrowski added. “I had to take another week off before the Giro. We’ll see. It’s a bit of a mystery. This first week I will be riding into it.”

Dombrowski joined his teammates on a Monday afternoon training ride on Sicily during the Giro’s first of three rest days.

All eyes are already focused on Tuesday’s climbing stage to Mount Etna, and the top GC riders will be keeping close tabs on each other, perhaps opening the opening the door for a breakaway attempt to fend off the pack.

“It will be the first bite of this Giro,” said Cannondale-Drapac sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “You have to be good there, and very good at the end of the Giro, so it will be interesting to see who can manage that as well. It’s a real mountain climb. You cannot hide too much. There will be some important gaps. For the GC guys, you need to be ready.”

For Dombrowski, Etna will come too early. This Giro will be about being patient, looking for opportunities, and turning that lifelong Giro dream into WorldTour reality.

“The team is pretty open. We’ve got guys who can contest for stages on a variety of terrain,” he said. “We don’t have a guy who can win the race. I think that’s the next best thing is to go on the attack. It makes for some aggressive racing.”