By Robbie Stout
Though he still might carry the nickname “The Cuban Missile,” Ivan Dominguez is now a U.S. citizen. As of February 26th, Dominguez no longer needs to worry about a green card or complicated travel with his old Cuban passport.
It’s been a happening year for the 32-year old from Cuba. With his former team, Toyota-United, permanently closing its curtains, and an uncertain relationship with Rock Racing, Dominguez finally found his way onto the new Fuji-Servetto ProTour team.
Dominguez has been living and racing in the U.S. now for almost 11 years — plenty of time to prove himself as a citizen. As one of the most popular riders at races like the Tour of California (which he was unable to race this year due his team being left off the invite list) it’s been a long time coming to finally call himself an American. “The status feels really good.”
Dominguez looks forward to simplified travel with his new passport. “With a Cuban passport you get stopped everywhere you go and the team has to wait for you,” he said. With Toyota-United, this was not a huge obstacle, as they primarily raced in the U.S., but now with Fuji-Servetto, Dominguez can expect to be crossing boarders more frequently.
Dominguez’ recently acquired citizenship also means an opportunity to race at the US professional championships, world championships, and maybe someday the Olympics. On Cuba, Dominguez said, “They don’t want me to race for them … Now as a U.S. citizen I have a better chance to do those events.”
Despite his 60-plus career wins in the U.S., he’s never had a chance at the stars and stripes. “Now,” he said, “I can go and do the U.S. pro championships and if I win I can wear the jersey.”
New Team — New Challenges
While the media was focused on Lance Armstrong’s return at this year’s Tour Down Under, some may have overlooked Dominguez in his new team kit. Just weeks before the start of the race Dominguez was putting in more time on the bike than years passed, and on brand new equipment. As a result he developed a painful case of Iliotibial inflammation, also known as IT band syndrome.
Even though Dominguez suffered through the Tour Down Under in more ways than one, he said the new team was very supportive. “I met a lot of the team in Australia and they were really nice people,” he said. “They are very organized and on time for everything.”
Dominguez said that the team didn’t pressure him into finishing the race — in fact it was quite the opposite, almost every day they said it would be okay not to start, but he wanted to continue because he wasn’t sure when he’d have another chance to race this year.
In addition to a friendly and supportive team, Dominguez doesn’t expect for language to be much of a barrier. “Half the team is Spanish and the other half is Italian,” he said. With Spanish as a first language and English as a second, Dominguez shouldn’t have a very hard time communicating with the rest of the team.
Even with the support of a ProTour team, the 2009 racing season is still a tentative one for Dominguez. His season is being pushed back as a result of his knee injury, and the Fuji-Servetto team has its own obstacles. The team, then known as Saunier-Duval, had two well publicized positive doping tests at last year’s Tour de France. As a result, the reincarnated team is having trouble with race entries, including a lack to the Tour of California and the Giro d’Italia. Dominguez is uncertain about when he expects to race next, but he plans to head over to Spain at the end of the March to at least ride with the team.
When asked about a new nickname, Dominguez didn’t have one yet, but he laughed at the idea of going by “I-van” instead of “E-van.”