On the heels of Pierre Rolland's cathartic stage 17 victory Wednesday, Cannondale-Drapac again focused its Giro d'Italia efforts on breakaway success on Thursday's stage to Ortisei, putting both Joe Dombrowski and Davide Villella into the move of the day.
Neither rider survived the hard tempo in the lead group over the short, lumpy parcours, with BMC's Tejay van Garderen ultimately pipping Sky's Mikel Landa for the stage victory. White jersey hopeful Davide Formolo finished as Cannondale's best-placed rider in 15th, with Dombrowski a little ways down in 17th.
The plan didn't quite work out for the American outfit on the 137km mountain stage, but they were satisfied with their tactics on the stage.
"We played it right, we put all the right guys in the move and Davide was there with the guys behind. So obviously we want to win but if you do all the right things and it doesn't work out you can't be unhappy I don't think," Dombrowski said.
The 26-year-old came into the Italian Grand Tour admittedly short of form and is therefore drawing encouragement from outings like Thursday's.
"I had a rough spring. I kind of knew I wasn't ready coming into the race and that the first couple of weeks were going to be tough for me. But I usually ride well in the third week and I figured if I saved some bullets as we made it through the first couple of weeks that I'd start to come around. And even if I didn't, then hopefully the races in June I can be good."
Dombrowski described the difficult game of catch up caused by a training crash and a stop-and-start spring as the source of his form problems heading into the Giro. Still, there are two road stages left as possible targets, and beyond that, as he points out, plenty of races still to come.
For Dombrowski, a hard final week at the Giro should help bring him up to speed to potentially contend later in the season. If he can find that form before the race gets to Milan and turn it into a stage result, even better.
"I ended up taking a week off right before the start, which isn't ideal but it was sort of like we were playing damage control. Talking with JV [Cannondale-Drapac manager Jonathan Vaughters] and making plans that was sort of the thing," he said. "Even if I miss the third week, being where I want to be, you have [the Tour de] Suisse and you know. There's plenty of racing in cycling. You can always come back and fix things."