Just one year ago, Joe Dombrowski was racing the SRAM Tour of the Gila and attacking from under the radar at the Amgen Tour of California. The precocious young American was sitting in lawn chairs in the shade after races with his Bontrager-Livestrong amigos. Two years ago, the 6-foot-1, 141-pounder was a Cat. 4.
This year, he'll be on the startline of the Giro d'Italia, pulling for Bradley Wiggins. He'll be racing in Oman and France as well.
In addition to the Giro, Dombrowski is tentatively slated to ride the Tour of Oman, Tirreno-Adriatico, Criterium International, Route du Sud and the Giro del Trentino. He may get to race stateside, as Sky is weighing racing in Colorado come August at the USA Pro Challenge, according to the team.
"I don't really have any particular goals going into any of these early races. If I can just do my job in helping the team and learn as much as I can while doing it, then that's all I'm looking for," Dombrowski said. "In talking with the team, they understand that the transition to the professional level is a big step, but perhaps even more so for American who is moving abroad. They stressed that this early, I wouldn't have any pressure for results, and that the pressure would likely come from me anyway. They just want to help facilitate a smooth transition."
Dombrowski, 21, signed a two-year deal with British outfit Sky over the offseason, making good on a marketable skill: climbing ability. He rose to the occasion in Colorado last August, finishing 10th overall in the USA Pro Challenge and seventh on Flagstaff Mountain, a jam-packed ascent above Boulder. See the results sheet from the 2012 Amgen Tour's queen stage for further validation of his mountain-goat reputation -- Dombrowski finished fourth on the day to Mount Baldy.
His neo-pro race calendar is nothing to frown at. For Dombrowski, the time to leave a mark begins now.
"My racing program is an ambitious one for a neo-pro," he said. "I think that is more race days by the end of June than I did all of last year. Learning how to manage more racing, and harder racing I'm sure will be a challenge, but for me what is most daunting is just doing my job in these high level races as part of such a high-level team."
Sky, of course, took first and second at last year's Tour de France on the legs of Wiggins and Chris Froome, and aims to win both the Giro and Tour this year, with Wiggins chasing the pink jersey and Froome the early pick to lead Sky in the mountainous 100th edition of the Tour. In Italy, that means the spritely Dombrowski (who won the 2012 Baby Giro) will be looked to for help by Wiggins on the steep Italian climbs.
"For now, the plan is to do the Giro. I think I would feel some pressure riding for Wiggins there just in that I would want to be able to be an adequate helper," he said. "That being said, I trust in the team, and I know that if they see that I'm not ready then they will have me sit it out. I'm sure this first year will be hard at times but I'm going into it looking forward to all the new challenges."