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Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.
International Under-23 Rider of the Year: Joe Dombrowski
If you’re a 21-year-old aspiring professional cyclist, there’s one way you’ll know if you can make it at the WorldTour level: sign a contract with the team that dominated the Tour de France.
That’s just what American Joe Dombrowski did after his skeletal frame saw him ride with some of the world’s best climbers on more than one occasion throughout his breakthrough 2012 season. As if he needed any confirmation that he had what it takes to go pro, the new Sky rider made history en route to becoming a threat to seasoned, world-class riders at mountainous weeklong stage races.
It all started rather quietly at the SRAM Tour of the Gila. One of the biggest races on the domestic calendar, the remote race in New Mexico doesn’t garner much international attention. That said, Dombrowski, riding with the Bontrager-Livestrong squad, demanded some attention after finishing second on the first stage of the mountainous
race, followed by a third place in the individual time trial, which netted him the third spot on the podium when all was said and done. But his season was just getting started.
In May, the 6-foot-2, 150-pound Dombrowski put together the most impressive ride of his short career, riding to fourth on the Mount Baldy stage of the Amgen Tour of California, gliding past the likes of Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) in the process. He would finish the race in 12th place overall.
In June, riding as a member of the U.S. National team, Dombrowski etched his name alongside the likes of Francesco Moser, Marco Pantani, and Gilberto Simoni, becoming the first American to win the GiroBio, affectionately known as the Baby Giro, the premier Italian under-23 stage race.
He did it in dramatic fashion. Over the course of nine stages, Dombrowski rode the roller coaster of professional cycling. Climbing through the mists to Terminillo, he took the race lead, capturing the pink jersey adopted from the race’s big brother, the Giro d’Italia. The next day, he sat devastated with a puncture on the side of the road, watching the jersey slip from his shoulders. But all was not lost. On the final stage, which saw more than 5,000 meters of climbing, he attacked on the Passo di Gavia with 12 kilometers to go, established a gap, and rode solo to the top to reclaim the lead and take the overall victory.
Fortunately, his Bontrager-Livestrong development squad, having proved they belonged at the biggest races in the United States against the toughest fields, was invited to the USA Pro Challenge, a race with a profile that looked like an irregular EKG. Dombrowski handled the expectations with aplomb, dancing up the slopes, steep or mild, on
the heels of some of America’s greatest climbers, even initiating the attacks at the most critical moments of the most iconic stage of the race, with its finish atop Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder. Despite a dismal final time trial in Denver, he managed to remain in the top 10 of one of the most hard-fought, dynamic races on American soil.
International Best Team Director: Allan Peiper
Allan Peiper came to a Garmin-Sharp team in 2012 in dire need of a seasoned and stable hand.
Founding sport director Matt White was fired the previous year after breaking team rules by recommending former rider Trent Lowe to toxic sports doctor Luis García del Moral. Team manager Jonathan Vaughters and second-year director Bingen Fernández picked up the slack, but there was a hole that needed to be filled.
Stepping into that void was Peiper, an Australian ex-pro who brought a depth of experience both on and off the bike that helped Garmin earn its first grand tour victory with Ryder Hesjedal at the Giro d’Italia. Peiper, one of the pioneering Anglo-Saxon pros of the 1980s and ’90s who broke into the European peloton a generation ago, gained his most valuable experience working as a sport director at Lotto, and thereafter with Bob Stapleton’s High Road organization.
After arriving at Garmin, Peiper quickly helped bolster the team’s organization and planning, as well as provided a solid base come crunch time. It was Peiper who was behind the steering wheel for Hesjedal’s historic Giro win.
“Allan is real easy to work with,” Hesjedal said. “He knows his stuff and he never panics. It makes a big difference when you know he has your back.”
Peiper is also known for some quality quotes, including his take on Hesjedal’s attitude during the Giro: “Ryder’s so laid back, he’s almost horizontal.”
Peiper was so trusted that Vaughters didn’t dare show up to the Giro until the final day. He also proved so valuable that he was lured away to join BMC Racing for 2013 as performance director. BMC’s gain is Garmin’s loss.