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Joe Dombrowski reflects on France’s second coronavirus lockdown

The 29-year-old cyclist’s off-season was put into question when France abruptly announced that it will enter into a second lockdown period.

American rider Joe Dombrowski only just finished his season with the Giro d’Italia in Milan last week. And he was looking forward to taking a few weeks off the bike in Nice, where he has lived since turning professional in 2013. But that all changed as curfews were announced all over Europe while France abruptly announced on Wednesday that it would enter into a second lockdown period for at least the next month. Suddenly, the 29-year-old cyclist’s off-season was put into question.

“I started understanding what was happening when we were in Milan after the finish of the Giro. I asked for a restaurant recommendation and I learned that all of the restaurants were closed.” Dombrowski told VeloNews in a telephone conversation after French President Macron announced the country’s second full lockdown since the coronavirus crisis hit Europe in the springtime. “I would say that Nice is pretty much home. But when I think about it in the context of my offseason, well, it’s been both a short and a long year, and it is important to go into next year — whatever that may look like — mentally refreshed. And I think it would be difficult to be refreshed if we were held to this one-kilometer-from-the-house rule and you are only let out one hour a day.”

As a result, Dombrowski is quickly trying to decide if he will stay in Europe or venture back to the U.S. which has its own set of unknowns. He knows that with this year’s season finishing so late, 2021 will come quickly. But he wants to make sure that wherever he is, he is able to start his 2021 preparation in the best frame of mind possible.

“It’s complicated this year going into next year because we are framing everything in so late in the year. I don’t know if we are going to do a team training camp in December. I mean if the guys who are at the Vuelta are at a training camp for 2021 three weeks after [the race ends], well, that’s not an adequate break. Even if it has been a short year of racing, it has still been a long year.”

Although Dombrowski was originally looking forward to taking hikes with his wife Milica in the back hills of Nice once the racing finished, the two are now limited to a one-kilometer radius of their residence, like everyone else in France. But he has also learned lessons from the first lockdown, which he hopes will help him better prepare for 2021.

Joe Dombrowski
Dombrowski knows that with the 2020 season ending so late, 2021 team camps will come shortly after, yet he remains circumspect. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images.

“I don’t know what is going to happen really, but if I was going to wager a bet, I would say that the races that are outside of Europe in January and February are not going to happen. And who knows if we are even going to start on time. You are can try to force some of it, but what is going to be is going to be.”

As a result, he will not overthink his pre-season training for 2021 as the first wave COVID-19 offered valuable lessons for a cyclist that is eager to race.

“I would say I am more at ease than last time. When looking at the first wave of the pandemic, it was really a six-month process. And when I look back at those six months and I never took a break. But if I did it over again, I would. Think about it this way, if you didn’t take a break now, everyone would think you were crazy. But when I look back to March and April, I was back in the US and I was really training. But when you think about it now, we are maybe closer to the start of next season now, than we were back then preparing for the season re-start in March or April.

One thing the break imposed by the first wave of the pandemic showed Dombrowski was that most seasoned professionals like himself can get into shape much faster than they often think. “I learned from the first lockdown is that you shouldn’t waste your mental energy, trying to be too specific about anything. In the end, I think that you can get fit a lot quicker and sooner than you think. Perhaps if this cycle keeps happening again and again that won’t be the case, but right now it is.”

Dombrowski insists that he is looking at this most recent lockdown imposed by the intense upswing of the second wave of the pandemic with a “calmer and longer view.”

“When there is such uncertainty, sometimes it is not a bad thing to just relax, because, well, what can you do?” he adds. “This stuff is totally out of control. Don’t stress.”