Joe Dombrowski, Bontrager-Livestrong's 21-year-old revelation, told Cyclingnews Wednesday that he has confirmed with a UCI ProTeam for next season but has not yet signed the paperwork. Rumours have been swirling over the past couple weeks about which team Dombrowski would ride with next year. Both Sky and BMC have been mentioned, but Dombrowski would not reveal his plans.
"I've decided on a team, but I can't really say just out of respect for their program until they are willing to release it," he said. "I haven't signed, but I have confirmed that yeah, I'll go there. We'll all know soon."
The climbing sensation from Marshall, Virginia, grabbed headlines in May with a fourth-place finish on the Mt. Baldy stage of the Tour of California. He impressed again by taking third overall at the Tour of the Gila and winning the jersey for best young rider. Then he travelled to Europe and won the Baby Giro with the USA Cycling U23 national team. He continued his run at the Tour of Utah, where he grabbed multiple top-10 finishes, including coming in third on the difficult summit finish at Snowbird ski area behind eventual overall winner Johann Tschopp (BMC). He also took home the Best Young Rider Jersey from that race.
Even with the level of success he's achieved on the bike this year, Dombrowski still finds it hard to believe that his future has become the subject of so much speculation. "I guess it's a bit of a surprise," he said. "It's kind of funny that people are talking about it."
But Bontrager-Livestrong team director Axel Merckx doesn't find it surprising at all, saying Dombrowski's move simply reaffirms that the Colorado-based development team's program is in fine working order.
"There's another one going, right?" he said of Dombrowski's impending departure. "The job is done, and now it's time to move on and try and find somebody else. I think Ian [Boswell] is probably going to move up, too, with the latest results that he's had. It's great. It's wonderful for our program. That's what we are about, and it shows you that it works and that we are on the right track with those guys."
Dombrowski has also been on the right track this week in Colorado. So far at the USA Pro Challenge Dombrowski has grabbed a top-10 finish on the stage 2 run to Crested Butte and once again wears the jersey for best young rider, sitting in 13th place overall, just 12 seconds behind leader Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp). Despite the distractions about what's going on with him for next season, Dombrowski appears focused on bringing home the blue argyle jersey of the USA Pro Challenge's best young rider.
"Hopefully, if I can hold onto that for the overall it would be awesome," he said. "I think everyone kind of knows at this point that if you want to win the overall here, you're really going to have to race your bike."
After Colorado he hopes to race in the U23 world championships, but not before he goes home for a short break. "I haven't seen exactly what the program is," he said. "But I'm guessing they're going to have us go over and maybe do some kermesses or do some one-day's over in Belgium to get acclimated and get used to that flat, fast, high-speed kind of stuff and then finish the season off with the Worlds."
Merckx, meanwhile, will be left filling the holes in his roster after another year of graduating riders.
"Losing those guys is going to be a big empty space that some other guys are going to have to fill up," Merckx said. "I'm currently busy trying to recruit as much talent as I can. It's an ongoing process, and I can confirm to you a lot of names. We signed Tanner Putt already in the US, and we're still looking for different riders in the US and abroad."