The Cannondale team rode aggressively on the first real mountain day during stage 13 of Giro d'Italia, working to protect Rigoberto Uran's ninth place overall and targeting the stage victory with Joe Dombrowski.
The American eventually finished in the front group with Uran but spent much of the stage on the attack and chasing victory after some generous early work by teammates Moreno Moser, Simon Clarke and Ramunas Navardauskas in the early 32-rider attack. Dombrowski jumped across to the move on the climb with a big effort and then his teammates help set him for the two final climbs that would reveal who was the strongest in the front group.
Dombrowski and Nieve went on the attack near the summit of the Porzus climb but the Spaniard managed to edge clear of the American and powered ahead in pursuit of a team victory to save Team Sky's battered pride after the loss of Mikel Landa. Dombrowski fought on, with victory just up the road, out of his grasp, but was caught and distanced by Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) on the final La Valle climb and was also swept up by the front group of overall contenders.
"We wanted to keep Davide Formolo and Rigo (Uran) up there in the GC and protected but also try for the stage win. It was a good try," Dombrowski explained to Cyclingnews as he recovered after his big day out front.
"Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't but you've got to go for it," he said wisely.
"The worst feeling is when you don't try. Because if you don't try, then you're just riding your bike in the peloton doing nothing. So you might as well try. Even if it doesn't work out, you can go home and be happy that you gave it everything."
Dombrowski explained the strategy of his attack, revealing that Cannondale had a carefully thought out plan that almost came to fruition.
"We had a plan and stuck to it but maybe we made a bit of a mistake because we opted for me not to go in the early break on the flat roads because there's always too much jumping around and you kill yourself like that. The idea was that I'd ride across to the move on the climb. I got away but I had to ride across a two-minute gap. I made it but maybe killed myself a little doing it."
Dombrowski was also unfortunate to have Nieve with him in the attack on the climb. The Basque rider is a former stage winner at the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana and Critérium du Dauphiné, and an expert Grand Tour climber.
"I tried to stay with Nieve on the second last climb but he is super strong on tough climbs like that," Dombrowski acknowledged of his former teammate at Team Sky.
"He often works for the team so you don't see him much but if you give him some leash on the climbs, he's perhaps one of the best in the world and goes for it."
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