Dombrowski picks up Cannondale leadership in Danielson’s absence

24-year-old American hoping Tour of Utah will provide springboard to Vuelta success

Cannondale-Garmin’s Joe Dombrowski has assumed the leadership role of his team after the recent suspension of two-time Tour of Utah winner Tom Danielson following a positive anti-doping test.

“We only came with seven and now we’re down to six, so it’s a bit of an open race for us now,” said Dombrowski, who is using the 2.HC race in Utah to prepare for his first Grand Tour start at the Vuelta a España later this month.

“I’ll fill in the GC role, but we’re not going to commit to riding the front everyday. That being said, it opens up some opportunities. We’re a really young team; I think we’re the youngest team in the WorldTour. This is the level of race where a neo-pro can come and win a stage. So I think that’s what we’ll look to do.”

Dombrowski, who is currently 14 seconds down on overall leader Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare), hasn’t raced in Utah since 2012, when he finished fourth overall while riding for the Bontrager Development Team run by Axel Merckx. He finished third that year on the Queen stage to Snowbird on the penultimate day, so he is not unfamiliar with the challenges that lie ahead.

“You know there’s not too much for GC,” Dombrowski said of this year’s Utah route. “There are some days like this were you need to not lose time, but your not necessarily going to win the race. It’s pretty much down to those last two days.”

The last day of the race starts and finishes in Park City and features the daunting climb up Empire Pass.

“I’ve actually been in Park City the last couple of weeks, so I’ve had some time to ride those roads,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve done the race before, and we had the same last two stages last time, so I’m familiar with them. But it’s still nice to get a little bit acclimated to the altitude and see everything again.”

Athough Utah is the current race on the agenda, Dombrowski is also looking ahead to the Vuelta and his first three-week test.

“It’s been kind of a longtime coming,” he said. “Obviously I wanted to do that with Sky, and then last year I was off the bike for quite awhile. It’s exciting to be kind of back in the groove again.”

Because the Vuleta will be Dombrowski’s first Grand Tour, he’ll be at the race to gain experience, he said, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of going for a result.

“It’s my first one so I don’t think it makes sense to set big goals,” he said. “But later in the race, as you often see at the Vuelta – you know the third week – once the GC is kind of separated a bit you don’t need to beat the Froomes and the Contadors, you just have to beat the 10 guys that you’re with.

“So I think I’ll go there for experience, and then maybe be a little bit of an opportunist as well. I don’t know exactly what the team is we’re sending, but I imagine we’ll have a GC guy there, too, that we’ll be looking after.”

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