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Giro d'Italia

Joe Dombrowski on Astana-Qazaqstan GC reshuffle: ‘There will be more opportunities later in the Giro d’Italia’

Astana reeling after early exit for López and losses for Nibali in first mountain summit of the Giro d'Italia.

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MOUNT ETNA, Italy (VN) — Astana-Qazaqstan might still try to hit the final podium at the Giro d’Italia, but it won’t turn out the way it was originally planned.

Designated GC captain Miguel Ángel López abandoned early in Tuesday’s fourth stage with an injury, throwing a wrench into the team’s well-tuned pink jersey ambitions.

Later, two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali lost more than two minutes to the GC favorites, delivering another blow to the team’s Giro hopes on what turned out to be a terrible Tuesday.

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Joe Dombrowski told VeloNews he wasn’t sure what had happened to López, but that he had the green light to try to ride into the day’s main breakaway on the key stage to Etna.

“I was trying to be in the breakaway today and I was so focused on that I didn’t really hear anything,” Dombrowski said at the finish. “When the break went, and I was around the guys, I asked where’s Miguel. David [de la Cruz] told me that he stopped. It’s disappointing and I have no idea what happened.”

With López out and Nibali losing time, the team will have to try to improvise their Giro plans with the overall classification no longer at the center of their ambitions.

“There will be more opportunities later in the race,” Dombrowski said. “Already today they said you’re free to go in the break, and I tried. I was really suffering in the start today.

“I know it sounds strange, but a lot of easy days and the traveling, and you kind of lose the rhythm a bit. Now on the last climb, I wasn’t so bad despite spending some energy early in the stage.”

Nibali, David de la Cruz, and Dombrowski will now have even more freedom and responsibility after the team’s GC ambitions were turned upside down.

Among the team’s remaining riders, Nibali started the best-placed on GC with 12th at 30 seconds back, thanks to his strong time trial in Budapest on Saturday, but lost contact on the upper reaches under pressure from Ineos Grenadiers.

Nibali came into this Giro without any real pressure, but will now have to readjust his plans following López’s exit due to a lingering hip injury.

“It’s obvious we will have to make adjustments to our plans,” said Astana sport director Stefano Zanini. “We will take it day by day and face the race with tranquility. It’s something we can discuss among the leaders of the team.”

Teams have been able to reshuffle the GC deck in the past when one of the pre-race favorites crashes out early.

In the 2020 Giro, for example, Geraint Thomas started as the GC leader for Ineos only to crash out early, and Tao Geoghegan Hart emerged from an elite helper role to win the pink jersey.

Things might be tougher for Astana to fill the López void.

With so much focus on López, many of the other riders already gave up time in the early stages thinking that they were not under pressure to fight for the overall.

Fabio Felline started 18th at 41 seconds back, but his best Giro overall ride was 25th in 2020, and he struggled Tuesday. Valerio Conti also started in the top 30, and rode into the Giro’s first serious breakaway in Tuesday’s stage.

De la Cruz, who’s finished seventh in the Vuelta a España three times, already gave up nearly two minutes.

“The Giro is long and if things open up over the course of three weeks, and if there’s an opportunity to take a stage to target a stage, for sure I will do it,” Dombrowski said.

Now Dombrowski and the others on the team will need to hit the reset button.

Things “opened up” sooner than anyone could have imagined.

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