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Giro d'Italia

Joe Dombrowski on Giro d’Italia role: ‘The first priority is the GC’

American climber won a breakout stage in last year's Giro and isn't closing door on a repeat even with larger goal of working for team's GC ambitions.

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KAPOSVAR, Hungary (VN) — Joe Dombrowski returns to the Giro d’Italia a year after his dramatic stage win and exit from the 2021 edition with a new team and a familiar role.

The U.S. climber is committed to helping Astana-Qazaqstan GC leader Miguel Ángel López, but isn’t closing the door on a possible run at a stage if the dynamics tilt in his favor.

“The first priority is the GC,” Dombrowski told VeloNews. “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.”

Dombroski made it safely through Saturday’s time trial, finishing in 113th at 1:04 back. López struggled against some of his direct GC rivals, ceding 42 seconds to stage winner Simon Yates.

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Astana is backing López as its outright captain, and Dombrowski’s job is to be there to help him deep in the mountains in the back half of this Giro.

“Our team’s objective here in this Giro is the GC,” Dombrowski said. “These first days are more about staying out of trouble, and I don’t think there will be big differences made, but there could be some big losses.”

Dombrowski moved across to Astana after two seasons at UAE, and he’s familiar with how the role of elite helper can sometimes open up personal opportunities. Last year, Dombrowski bolted to victory to win his first grand tour stage win, only to crash out the next day in a bitter twist of fate.

With the team backing the Colombian, even Dombrowski is unsure what to expect from Nibali. The two-time Giro champion is being elusive about his GC ambitions but popped a good time trial Saturday to ramp up the hype machine in Italy that the veteran might have one more trick up his sleeve.

“To be honest, I don’t know exactly,” Dombrowski said. “The Italians would say he’s on a bit of a jolly, and Nibali can move freely in the race.”

The first GC test comes Tuesday at Mount Etna after the transfer back to Sicily, and the iconic mountaintop finale at Blockhaus on stage 9 at the end of the first full week will help settle things.

“Everyone will know where they stand on GC a bit more after that first block,” he said. “For the rest, staying safe and staying out of trouble.”

That’s sometimes easier said than done in the treacheries of the Giro.