Young Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager Livestrong), all of 20, put in a massive surge on the final climb to Mogollon to finish second on stage 1 of the SRAM Tour of the Gila and take hold of the white best young jersey. A jersey that should be hotly disputed with many of the top under23 riders in the field.
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Dombrowski played it mellow in the field controlled mostly by Competitive Cyclist with some assistance from UnitedHealthcare to reel in a break of two men, Paul Mach (Kenda/5 Hour Energy) and Adam Carr (Ekoi.com/Gaspesien).
“It was really easy in the pack the first two hours, I spent most of the day coasting. They got caught, it started to pick up, it was all together at this final right turn.” Dombrowski explained of the first 85-mile of the 94.1 mile point to point stage.
The group climbed the first pitch and then UnitedHealthcare guttered it on the plateau. “It wasn’t too bad on the first kick and then when we hit that mesa, the strong crosswinds and it got blown apart. It was every man for himself. I was sitting maybe 15th wheel and got tailed off.”
Eventual stage winner Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) was off the front in a group of around six riders. And then the second pitch hit, the final steep three miles of climbing grades of 19% at some points. Dombrowski was in his element.
“I was sitting maybe 15th wheel and got tailed off and then ended riding through people on the climb.”
He continued, “I was maybe 30 seconds back at the base of the final 4k of the climb. The gaps opened and I was just driving across gaps, and ended up second.”
He rode through people to finish 14 seconds behind Sutherland.
Dombrowski stated that his U23 team wasn’t necessarily going for the white jersey but really for the win. “That being said, it’s definitely a deeper field here this year. If the white jersey is the best thing that we can get our hands on then we’ll take it.”
For Thursday stage, the 79.1 miles (127.3km) Inner Loop road race with an expected bunch sprint, Dombrowski’s goal, like all of the GC and climbers, will be to stay out of trouble. “It will be mostly just staying safe, staying out of the wind, trying to save energy and go on to the TT. ”
He added, “My time trialing is definitely not my strong point, it’s something I’m working on, I’ve got a lot of room for improvement. For me, it will about trying to maintain where I am, I think the next real good day for me will probably be on Gila Monster. ”
Last year, Dombrowski finished third on the Gila Monster stage when he worked to defend his teammate Dale Parker’s white jersey and once again put in a massive acceleration in the finale.
As Sutherland said as they waited for the podium, “Start at the front of the climb he’ll see what he can do.”
We’ll have to see if Dombrowski follows his advice and stays with the lead group at the bottom of the final Gila Monster climb.