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Joe Dombrowski: UAE-Team Emirates is “really on the up”

American Joe Dombrowski says he left American squad EF Education First for UAE-Team Emirates because of the Emirati squad's upward trajectory.

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When Joe Dombrowski scans the WorldTour peloton, he sees teams that are headed in a downward trajectory and others that are pointed skyward.

Dombrowski told VeloNews his decision to sign with UAE-Team Emirates was because, in his view, the team is in the latter category.

“My impression was that the project hasn’t been around so long, but in the last year or so it was a team that was really on the up,” Dombrowski said. “I had spoken with folks inside the team, both riders and staff, and they were saying the team is getting better and better, and I felt like it would be a good structure to be part of.”

Indeed, UAE-Team Emirates heads into 2020 with bold objectives around its new grand tour star, Tadej Pogačar, and its lineup of young and explosive sprinters Fernando Gaviria and Jasper Philipsen, among other top riders.

The team has stated its intentions to send Pogačar to the Tour de France in 2020, however the squad’s focus in the other grand tours has yet to be revealed.

Dombrowski spoke with VeloNews at the team’s training camp in Spain last week. In the fall, Dombrowski became one of several riders linked to the Emirati squad for 2020 as part of the squad’s focus on youth. The team also hired American Brandon McNulty, Italian climber Davide Formolo, and Mikkel Bjerg, the Under-23 world time trial champion.

The move marks a new chapter in Dombrowski’s pro career. After riding for Team Sky for two seasons, he spent five years with the Slipstream/EF Education First sqaud. When asked why he left the American team, Dombrowski said it was simply time for a change.

“I felt like I needed to leave EF and it was time to do something different,” he said. “I think I was stagnating there and it was time to go.”

Dombrowski won the Tour of Utah with the American squad, and was often the team’s protected rider for the Giro d’Italia. He recorded a handful of top results while flying the Slipstream/EF colors: fourth place at the Amgen Tour of California; two stage wins in Utah; a flurry of close calls in Italy.

Yet Dombrowski never claimed that marquee European win for the American squad. Dombrowski famously won the 2012 Giro Ciclistico d’Italia, the “baby Giro” race for Under-23 riders. That victory placed expectations on Dombrowski that he believes he has yet to live up to.

“I think I expected a lot more, but I wouldn’t also write off what I could do in the future,” Dombrowski said. “Winning a big race like the [baby Giro] or [Tour de l’Avenir], you get marked as a future talent, and I don’t think I’ve fully delivered on that.”

As he has done in previous seasons, Dombrowski will focus the first half of his year on the Giro d’Italia. He will participate in a series of shorter stage races as a build-up to the Italian grand tour, such as the Volta Valenciana, Volta ao Algarve, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Tour of the Alps.

What role Dombrowski will play in the Giro is still to be decided. Dombrowski said that, based on communications between UAE-Team Emirates management and his coach, he will be allowed to chase a spot on the general classification. Whether he can crack the race’s top-10 could be a goal for his Giro.

“Depending on who they send, that can always change,” Dombrowski said. “Having a good Giro would be a great way to start with the new [team]. Anytime you start in a new environment, people’s perceptions are formed quickly. I’m hoping to start off well here, to show that I’m reliable.”