PARK CITY, Utah (VN) — Joe Dombrowski made winning look easy on one of the country’s hardest climbs.
As the group of favorites lurched up Empire Pass during Sunday’s decisive stage of the Tour of Utah, Dombrowski launched a series of accelerations. The first attack drew out overall leader Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) and a handful of the race’s strongest riders.
The second acceleration, which came two kilometers from the summit, sprung Dombrowski to victory. The young American bolted away from Hermans, Joao Almeida (Hagens Berman Axeon), Keegan Swirbul (Worthy Brewing), and James Piccoli (Elevate-KHS), crested the summit by himself, and then descended to victory in downtown Park City.
“I tried at the bottom—Ben and James were with me, they didn’t have any real obligation or reason to work with me because I was a couple minutes back on GC, we were racing different races I suppose,” Dombrowski said at the finish. “Eventually I decided to ease off on the climb and hope some guys would come back and then maybe it would present another opportunity to go, just at the very top. If you have a gap on the descent, then normally you can keep it to the line. It worked out.”
Dombrowski (EF Education First) finished with a 24-second advantage over Almeida with Hermans finishing just two seconds behind the Portuguese rider. Hermans’s finishing time was good enough to clinch the overall title.
In the final standings Hermans finished 50 seconds ahead of Piccoli. It’s Hermans’s first overall victory at the Tour of Utah—in 2018 he finished second overall.
“From the first time that I did this race in 2014, I had a good feeling with this race and I kept getting better results in the GC,” Hermans said.
Dombrowski was the big winner on the day. In addition to taking the stage, Dombrowski’s attack bumped him into third place in the final GC standings, 1:32 behind Hermans. Dombrowski had started the day in fifth place overall, behind Kyle Murphy (Rally-UHC) and Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo), more than two minutes in arrears.
Dombrowski said he was not worried bout his standing on GC—he was solely focused on winning the stage.
“I think I prefer to race to win the stage than think about the GC, or whether I’m second or sixth place,” Dombrowski said. “I would prefer to try and win. So I wouldn’t say that I was really thinking about that too much.”
The thrilling finish in Park City came after a hilly 125.9 kilometer stage that culminated with the battle up Empire Pass. The pace was high for much of the day, and it took more than 100 kilometers for the day’s breakaway to establish.
When the move did finally go, it containe 23 total riders, including multiple riders from Rally-UHC, Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM, Worthy Pro Cycling, Aevolo, Arapahoe-BMC-Hincapie, and 303 Project.
Back in the peloton, the pace was steady as Israel Cycling Academy kept the break on a short leash.
Israel Cycling Academy pegged the breakaway back just as the group left the town of Midway and accelerated onto the climb.
Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane) was first to attack and was quickly followed by Dombrowski. The American’s acceleration drew out Hermans and Piccoli, yet a mid-climb attack by Almeida succeeded in momentarily dropping Piccoli.
Dombrowski’s attack, near the top, was the only move that stuck on the long and grinding climb.