Joe Dombrowski’s Giro Diary – Nibali proved this year’s race has only just begun

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Joe Dombrowski is one of three American riders at this year Tour of Italyand in an exclusive diary for Cyclingnews, he shares his thoughts on the race, reveals what’s going on inside the peloton and shares his own emotions on the Corsa Rosa.

He won a tough stage in Sestola in the 2021 Corsa Rosa and is competing in the Grand Tour of Italy with the Astana Qazaqstan team led by Vincenzo Nibali. However, Dombrowski hopes to have a chance for another stage win while helping Nibali on his final Grand Tour.

We have already run 16 stages at the Giro d’Italia and we are in the high mountains for week three but as we joke every day at the pre-race team meeting, this year’s Giro is just start, especially for Astana Qazaqstan.

We are all tired and a little baked from the heat of the second week but with the last weekend including a mountain finish at the foot of the Marmolada glacier and then Sunday’s decisive time trial around Verona, there is has a lot of races and especially a lot of GC racing to come. With Vincenzo riding so well it will mean a lot of hard work and hard racing for me and the team too, but we are happy to do everything for Vincenzo’s last dance and his last resurrection and farewell.

I compared him in an interview to Kobe Bryant earlier this year and after he revealed in his hometown of Messina that he would be retiring at the end of 2022, and therefore would never race the Giro, there was a unique atmosphere in the team.

He’s a quiet guy, I’ve never seen him stressed, but with the weight of expectation off his shoulders, he seems free to run on instinct, in some sort of last show of his talents from the Grand Round.

Everyone on the team would love to see him do something special last week. He’s already come back from big time deficits, like in 2016 when he won his second Giro, so it feels like anything can happen between here in Verona on Sunday.

Vincenzo has a long history of upsetting racing. He is fifth overall after the Aprica stage, indicating that he is on the rise. He will be marked now and he can’t really give up the fight for the GC but I think he would also like a big stage win and so he will swing out. It’s his style. If I can help be part of it, that would be fun for me too. I have a feeling of optimism about our chances.

My role was fluid throughout the Giro and it certainly wasn’t a quiet race for me. The initial goal was to help Miguel Ángel López in the GC and Vincenzo had a free role. Then when we lost Miguel I also had a few chances and went on the attack and entered the breakaway on the Blockhaus stage, and again on the stage 14 circuit around Torino. Luck was not on my side in surviving these breakaways to the finish, but if I have the freedom to try again I will.

I fought for the breakaway on stage 15 but couldn’t make it. After a big effort at the start, he had a very difficult day after an already difficult day around the hills of Turin on Saturday. But I’m not complaining because I would like to get a stage win like I did last year. I spent 80 km fighting for the break on Sunday, then I stayed with Vincenzo in the last climbs. And on stage 16, it was good to shoot Mortirolo, and to show up in the race, even if it didn’t have a big impact on the result of the day.

In a way, we are a few in the peloton to participate in the two races of the day of this Giro: there is the fight for the stage victory and then a more domestic role for our leader. So far I’m recovering pretty well, but over the last week’s stages fatigue is starting to set in, in different ways. You see it in the way the group races and on a personal level small things can make you grumpy.

My personal gripes include the runners throwing bottles at the walls to get back into the band and the hotel rooms with no real bed but a pull out sofa bed. When I’m grumpy, even the pink train that follows the race on certain stages and honks constantly next to us is annoying.

Luckily, there are special things that help you forget about fatigue and keep me from being a Giro grump.

It was really nice to see my wife and my friends from Nice following the race in the Alps. I saw my name painted on the road on Sunday and having a big cheering section was a nice touch. My mum and dad will be at the Giro all last week and I would love to show off and give them something to cheer on. I owe them so much and it’s special to share my Giro with them.

My wife and friends met a group of Colombian fans where they were camping along the stage on Sunday and they also promised to follow me all last week. My personal Giro fan club keeps growing and that will only help me in the final stages as we fight for Vincenzo and maybe even a stage win.

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