Sometimes a ride comes along and right away you can just tell he has what it takes. We first caught sight of Joe Dombrowski at the Italian Valle d’Aosta stage race, last year. Aosta, l’Avenir, the Baby Giro and the U23 Worlds are where the pro talent scouts do their window shopping.
At the Copenhagen Worlds we caught up with him for an interview and our positive impression of this young man was nothing but endorsed.
This year he went back to Italy for the Baby Giro – and won it.
He also took 12th on GC in the Tour of California, fourth in the Tour of Utah and 10th in the Tour of Colorado – and he only turned 21 in May.
The next step in his rocket powered trajectory came just a few days ago when he signed for Team Sky.
Friend and Bontrager-Livestrong team mate Ian Boswell has also signed for the GB mega team.
Joe took time to speak to VeloVeritas not long before he returns to UK for a ‘get to know each other’ session in London.
Congratulations, Joe – did you and Ian decide independently of each other to go to Sky?
“We both had plans to move up, if it was together then that would be great – but it wasn’t a prerequisite.
“I knew he was talking to Sky too, so for it to work out was great.”
I believe you had a ‘wish list’ for the team you wanted to go to?
“First of all, ideally it had to be English speaking, if I had to learn another language then so be it – but English speaking would make the transition into the Pro Tour ranks much more straightforward.
“I didn’t want an ‘old school’ team – I wanted a team which was into the science of training and at the cutting edge.
“And I also wanted a team which takes a strong ethical stance – that’s very important to me.
“But at the end of the day, ‘gut feel’ counts for a lot, too.”
You signed for two years; Ian for three.
“I had the option for three years but I was originally thinking of staying down in the U23 until June, then move up.
“But then I figured it was best to either move up for the full year, or not at all.
“The early season is important with the training camps and busy early season calendar – I decided I’d miss a lot if I left it ‘til June.
“I’m confident I can make the jump and felt that I’d just be spinning my wheels if I left it for another year.”
Do you have any idea of your programme, yet?
“I have a rough draft; but it’s pretty tentative.
“I’m coming to London in a week or so, not for a training camp – for a get-together.
“My programme will be firmed up there – we’ve spoken about some of the smaller stage races and some World Tour races. I also like that with Sky there are solid training camps during the season – not just pre-season.
“The philosophy isn’t that you race to prepare for races; you train to prepare for races – that was one of the things which drew me into Sky.”
What about the aspect of being overshadowed by Wiggins, Froome, Uran – there are a lot of stars in that team?
“Folks have said that to me, but I think that environment will suit me, I’ll still only be 21 at the start of next season and if I’m riding for those guys then the pressure isn’t on me.
“I see it as an opportunity to learn – come the time when I want to move on and maybe take on a leader’s role, I’ll have learned so much.”
Do you have an agent?
“After the Baby Giro, Bobby Julich approached me for Sky – with him being a fellow American I guess they figured he was the man to talk to me.
“But then it started to get crazy and it was more a question of which teams didn’t show interest in me.
“There had been interest after California, but like I said, it went crazy after the Baby Giro.
“At the end of June I talked with Andrew McQuaid and he’s my agent, now.
“I didn’t mind talking to the teams but it was becoming a full time job and when you get into money, contracts and the legal stuff then you need someone who knows what they’re doing.”
And Sky wants you in Nice, not Girona or Tuscany?
“I’d planned for Girona because there are a lot of US guys there – there’s also a good US scene in Lucca.
“I felt that if there were a lot of US riders then it would make the transition that much easier.
“But I think Sky is planning to set up some kind of base for the young riders in Nice.
“I’d never been before, but Bobby Julich lives there, Sky flew us down after the Worlds and Bobby showed us around – the sights, apartments, the best places to buy food.
“I loved it, the training roads, the weather . . .”
How will Sky race coaching work; you have a good relationship with your existing coach?
“That’s something I’m trying to figure out at the minute.
“Sky has a system where they have a ‘race coach’ who looks after five or six riders.
“In my case that will be very valuable, not just from the training point of view but from the aspect of learning the ins and outs of living in Europe.
“But I have a good coaching relationship and friendship with Jeremiah Bishop, so I’d really like for him to remain involved – we’ll have to see.”
What does Sky expect from you?
“I had a sit down meeting with David Brailsford and he explained to me what the team is all about.
“The pressure on me will be low; it’s a big step from U23 to World Tour.
“And it’s an especially big step if you’re moving from the US to Europe – it’s not just the racing and fitness aspect, it’s integrating into the team and European culture.
“The plan is that I’ll be eased into it.”
How about bike fit and clothing?
“I actually took my Trek to Manchester with me, after the Worlds and before we went to Nice, so as they could take all the dimensions for my Pinarello.
“They also measured me for my clothing – it’s very well organised.”
Quite a year – what’s the hi-lite for you?
“Winning the bay Giro and joining the list of great names on that trophy.
“It was a race of ups and downs, I took pink on stage four, lost it on stage five and to win it back on the Gavia was special.”
What are your ambitions for 2013?
“I don’t have a specific race programme yet so I can’t really set race targets.
“But I want to be fit for the start of the season, be going well for the team and to set up home in Nice.
“If it feels like home, I’m training well and settled in then I’ll be happy.”