Giro d'Italia

Giro di Hoody: Joe Dombrowski joins elite club of U.S. stage winners

From Joe Dombrowski's historic win, to Remco Evenepoel's roving media scrum, Andrew Hood examines the Giro's storylines.

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Smokin’ Joe Dombrowski joins elite company with Giro d’Italia stage victory

How huge was Joe Dombrowski‘s stage victory Tuesday at the Giro d’Italia? Long a fan favorite, “Dombro” proved that sometimes nice guys do finish first.

Of course, in professional cycling, being nice might find you friends in the peloton, but it won’t earn victories. No gifts.

Dombrowski has been hunting for a marquee win for a while now. Since winning the “Baby Giro” in 2012, he’s been knocking on the door of a big win for years. No one ever questioned Dombrowski’s professionalism or talent, but Tuesday’s performance reveals how much he’s improved his racing acumen. Winning out of a big break not only requires great legs, but also having the street smarts to know when and where to move.

Realizing the stage would be decided on the final climb, Dombrowski stayed hidden away in the pursuit group, and punched when it counted.

Also read: Joe Dombrowski and his long wait

Grade-A racing tactics + drive + legs = first pro in a grand tour.

Dombrowski’s victory puts him in elite company.

Only 10 U.S. riders have won stages at the Giro. How many can you name?

(See the answers lower in this column.)

Just call it the Giro di Remco

How nuts are the Belgians over Remco Evenepoel? Despite COVID-19 restrictions, a fleet of Belgian journalists has descended on the Giro to document his every move.

The Belgian media dubbed the race “Giro di Remco,” and are chronicling his every pedal stroke. Sporza posted six Evenepoel stories among the nine on its front page. Het Laatste Nieuws is all over the story, with five of its six lead articles on its homepage dedicated to “RemGo.” One item described the 35 riders and staffers that are supporting the budding Belgian superstar, while another delved into his diet.

And it’s only stage 4.

Also read: I can’t wait to watch Remco race the Giro

Of course, Belgium is hungry for a new star. Tom Boonen retired a few years ago, and though Wout van Aert is already a big draw, it’s Evenepoel that appears to be moving the media needle even more.

What sets Evenepoel apart from a generation or two of Belgian stars is that he brings GC potential into the fray. The last Belgian grand tour winner was Lucien Van Impe, all the way back in 1976. That was so long ago that Remco’s father was eight years for Belgium’s last grand tour winner.

Litter patrol could prove decisive

Cycling’s April 1 safety rules could pack a bite during this Giro d’Italia.

Why? Because the race jury is already handing out tough-love penalties on the sometimes controversial littering rules.

Overnight, João Almeida was among a few riders who were fined for a perceived littering offense in Monday’s stage. Tuesday morning, Almeida challenged the race jury and got the ruling reversed, claiming that he does not litter, and the jury backtracked.

Also read: Unintended consequences of the ‘super tuck’ ban inside the peloton

What’s significant about these new rules are how the race jury could end up impacting the final outcome of the race.

One reason Almeida was keen to see the ruling reversed was not to save money on the 500 Swiss franc fine or the loss of points that come with a first offense, but what could be waiting if a rider is busted a second time.

Second offenses in stage races for littering or tossing water bottles outside designated zones results in a one-minute time penalty. Four of the past five editions of the Giro were decided by gaps of less than 60 seconds.

Let’s wait and see how harsh the race jury is in the coming stages on littering and or enforcing the ban on the “super tuck” position, but if the jury takes a strict line, it could end up tilting the outcome of the Giro.

It’s one thing to win or lose a race based on time bonuses.

How much would it sting to lose a grand tour for tossing out an energy bar wrapper or a water bottle?

U.S. stage-winners at the Giro d’Italia

Only 10 U.S. riders have won stages at the Giro d’Italia.

The first? Ron Kiefel, and his historic stage victory in the 1985 Giro. Kiefel was part of the ragtag 7-Eleven team and kicked to victory in 15 into Perugia, a groundbreaking win that stands as the first American grand tour stage victory. Kiefel retired in the early 1990s, and recently sold the bike shop founded by his father in the 1970s in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

Next was Greg LeMond, who won a stage in 1986 when he raced the Giro ahead of his history-making Tour de France victory later that summer. LeMond raced the Giro seven times, finishing once on the podium, with third in 1985 behind then-teammate Bernard Hinault and Francesco Moser.

And then there was Andy Hampsten — also a winner of a stage in the breakout 1985 Giro — who won two stages en route to his mythic victory in the 1988 Giro. Riding in the snow over the Gavia in one of the Giro’s standout moments, Hampsten secured the pink jersey, and remains the only American to win the Italian grand tour. But unlike what some people believe, Hampsten didn’t win the famous Gavia stage. Instead, Erik Breukink won the stage, with Hampsten winning on two other occasions during that Giro.

Also read: Here are the five North Americans in the 2021 Giro 

Tyler Hamilton, David Zabriskie, and Fred Rodriguez all won stages throughout the 2000s, with Tyler Farrar, Taylor Phinney, and Tejay van Garderen winning during the past decade. Farrar and Hamilton are the only U.S. riders to win stages in all three grand tours.

Going into Tuesday, the last U.S. stage winner was Chad Haga, who won the final-day time trial in Verona in 2019.

Social media that caught our eye …