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Dombrowski: Steady progress, career-best result

After two years of struggles with varying health difficulties, Joe Dombrowski breaks through with Tour of Utah overall win.

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PARK CITY, Utah (VN) — Joe Dombrowski has missed chunks of a season due to injury. He’s departed a race early as a team leader because of an unstoppable bloody nose. And he’s started a race when his team leader was jettisoned before it began because of a positive drug test.

As such, Dombrowski wasn’t about to let a race victory slip away Sunday because of a tactical error. Riding conservatively on Sunday’s narrow, dangerous descent with two riders potentially chipping into his race lead, the Cannondale-Garmin rider retained the race lead he assumed Saturday and won the Tour of Utah.

The victory in the seven-day race that included more than 51,000 feet of climbing and concluded with two mountain stages, confirmed Dombrowski’s return to top form. His potential first brought him to the forefront with stage wins and the overall title in the 2012 GiroBio and a subsequent two seasons with Team Sky.

Cannondale-Garmin entered the 11th annual Tour of Utah with Tom Danielson, the two-time defending champion, as the team leader. Danielson never started after an out-of-competition drug test in July returned positive for testosterone on the eve of the race.

“Obviously it’s not something any of us want to hear coming into the race,” said Dombrowski “The morale was a little bit low in the first couple of stages on the bus.”

“But I have to say, I am pretty impressed with the team as a whole and how we moved on from that. I said to them on the team bus on the first stage, ‘I think we can still win this race, and we can win stages, too. So let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on the race and see what we can make of it.’”

Dombrowski was the team leader at the USA Pro Challenge in 2013 with Chris Froome and Richie Porte as teammates. But Dombrowski suffered early because of his nasal issues and withdrew prior to stage 3. Last season, after lingering leg problems, Dombrowski was diagnosed with Iliac Artery Endofibrosis, underwent surgery and missed most of last season. He signed with Cannondale-Garmin last September.

“So far, it’s been a really good year for me,” said Dombrowski, who finished ninth in final stage en route to his 50-second win over Canadian Michael Woods (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), with a 1:05 cushion over Brent Bookwalter (BMC) in third. “I’ve sort of made steady progress. Any time you fix something you think you’re going to go straight back to the top. But it doesn’t really work that way.”

“It’s not a linear progression, you know. But, yes, I think this is the best yet. So I am happy to be back and racing healthy again.”

Dombrowski, who finished fourth overall in May at the Tour of California, became the fourth Tour of Utah race leader in four days with his solo stage 6 win that ended the HC climb to Snowbird ski resort.

“I felt good on final climb today,” said Dombrowski. “I thought, ‘Do I ride aggressively and try to win a stage or take it easy? I decided the best thing was to be conservative and not take any risks. I felt fine on the climbs and then Brent [Bookwalter] and Lachlan [Norris] knew the descent pretty well, but that was fine.

“I been riding the past two weeks in Park City. I knew they could attack and that they could get 20 seconds up. But for me, in terms the GC spot and the gap I had, it wasn’t really significant. So I was happy to take no risks.”