Joe Dombrowski loves the Giro d'Italia. The American has ridden every edition since 2016, six in total, and will be on the startline in Budapest on Friday for his seventh attempt at the Corsa Rosa.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly and Cyclingnews at the Tour of the Alps, the Astana-Qazaqstan rider said he was "on track" for the Giro, where he will be looking to support his team leaders Vincenzo Nibali and Miguel Ángel López.
However, after winning his first stage at the race last year at Sestola, racing in the colours of UAE-Team Emirates, Dombrowski said he would be looking for opportunities as well.
"We will go there with Miguel and Vincenzo, obviously they will be our leaders," he said. "My role will be to work for them, but you know, sometimes opportunities can surface, like last year, and if there's a chance to win a stage that would be great. Doors sometimes close but sometimes open, and you just need to find the open ones.
"Vincenzo has a lot of experience, he has won all the grand tours and he is a big name in cycling. I think he will be motivated to do something nice in his last year, and Miguel you can see that he's already going very well."
It was a mixed Tour of the Alps for Dombrowski, as he looked set to finish high up on general classification before he was penalised for littering outside the green zone on a couple of stages; he eventually finished 17th overall.
However, despite that setback, he looked in good form before his first Grand Tour for his new team.
"I seem like I'm going in a good way, and I've been in the front group every day here," he explained. "I was hoping to do a top ten GC, but we had a squabble over losing a minute over throwing some bottles. But, in the end we couldn't change the decision, but OK, we will try and make the most of today and let's see.
"I've done a big block. I was at Catalunya, then I stayed at altitude in Tenerife all the way until here. So I'll go home to Nice and I'll be there for around 10 days and then go to the Giro...
"I know my condition is good. Realistically the GC is so tight here that now to be in the top ten, I don't think it's gonna happen. I've kinda come away from the race without a result. Also being only a minute behind it's hard to go in the breakaway, you're stuck. It is what it is."
He was reasonably positive about his form, however, something that he hoped he would carry through to Friday and the Grande Partenza in Budapest.
"Overall, it has been a good week," he said. "I can go home and relax a bit and be mentally and physically ready for the Giro."
While his highest finish overall at the Giro is 12th, and he has only won one stage at the Italian race, it is an environment that he has consistently impressed in, although he said he had other objectives too.
"I've never done the Tour, I want to do it because it's something you want to do in your career," Dombrowski explained. "But the Giro, on the calendar, it's my favourite race. It suits me, I enjoy racing in Italy."
The odd American
Astana-Qazaqstan has not been traditionally a welcoming place for English speakers or Americans; Dombrowski is the first rider from the US since Evan Huffman to pull on the blue jersey.
This season there are largely three camps within the team, the Spanish speakers, the Italians, and the Kazakhs. Dombrowski admittted to Cycling Weekly that he is the "odd American". It must be a strange environment to suddenly find oneself in, but he said the team environment is "good".
"I'm the odd American. It's quite ok," he explained. "The team environment is good, and I understand Italian well enough. I don't really speak so much [Italian], I speak with some of the management in French, and also English, because I'm quite comfortable in French, and my English is OK.
"So far, it has been pretty good, nothing I can complain about, it has been a good experience."
There have been issues with riders' wages being paid this season, but Dombrowski has faith that the issue will be resolved, and said that they have been partly paid for this year.
"They have communicated that it's on the way and I'm confident it will be," he said. "I think it will be fine.
"It's maybe not how I've had it in the past, but it's not something I've thought about a lot. I've just been getting on with my races and training. It's not something I've spent a lot of time thinking about to be honest."
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