Joe Dombrowski talks about early days in the Tour de France, life in Astana and TTs with Alexander Vinokourov

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Accustomed to the big tours, Joe Dombrowski was only a beginner during the Tour de France 2022.

It took Dombrowski 11 starts across the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España before the long, skinny climbing machine from Astana-Qazaqstan got the call to make his Tour debut last month.

After coming through the Giro d’Italia earlier this season, the 31-year-old struggled to get fit in this summer’s Tour. But the experience of the biggest race in the world was worth it.

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BikeNews caught up with the Virginian shortly after racing in Paris before returning home to the French Riviera.

‘It’s almost like people never knew you were a professional cyclist…. And then it’s like, ‘oh, you did the Tour de France!’

United States riders like Powless and Dombrowski get more home hype when they’re on tour. (Photo: Getty)

VeloNews: Joe, congratulations on spending three weeks in France. The crowds were huge all the time and there was a noticeable American presence both on the roads and in the peloton. How did you feel running the Tour compared to the Giro or the Vuelta?

Joe Dombrowski: I would say the one thing that was remarkably different and interesting to experience, especially now that I’ve done over 10 grand tours, is that the Tour stands out in that it’s inherently bigger than the sport .

Maybe it’s because I’m an American and there’s not a lot of mainstream cycling following in the US compared to mainstream cycling countries, but I’ve noticed a lot of people following my race and racing in general because I was in it. It’s almost like, in some ways, people never knew you were a professional cyclist all this time. And then it’s like, ‘oh, you did the Tour de France!’

It was cool, like the last day to finish on this stage on the Champs-Élysées. It’s so iconic, right? In what other event in the world do you have the opportunity to walk through the Louvre and do laps on the Champs and around the Arc de Triomphe?

If you think back to your career when you’re done, I think there are things you wish you had done, and probably number one on that list for most riders is the Tour de France. So that was something that was definitely a cool experience.

‘I’m probably like a sore thumb, like, ‘who’s that American on Astana?’

Italians and Kazakhs make up 22 of Astana’s 30 runners. (Photo: Getty)

VN: This is your first season with Astana-Qazaqstan, and you are also booked for another season there. You’ve raced with several teams over your 12-year career, how does life compare in Astana?

Twenty-two of the team’s 30 riders come from Kazakhstan or Italy, what is the dynamic?

JD: I guess from an outside perspective, I’m probably like a sore thumb, like, ‘who’s that American in Astana?’ But, in fact, overall, I like the team.

It’s like a mixture of Kazakh and Italian. The language spoken in the team is more or less Italian or Russian, but all emails and official documents are all in English. When we’re around the dinner table or when they talk on the radio, it’s mostly Italian. So it’s not very different from when I was in the United Arab Emirates.

As far as my racing program goes, that’s another factor. When you’re on this team, you can do whatever errands you want to do. If I look back this year, more or less everything I wanted to do is what I did. If you express your opinion on this or that race, they listen. It’s good because it’s certainly not like that in all teams.

Vino still has it

VeloNews spotted Alexander Vinokourov’s engine behind a team van at this year’s Giro. (Photo: Andrew Hood)

NV: Alexander Vinokourov is your team manager, how should he ride?

He’s only 10 years out of the peloton. I’ve seen him ride his golden Willier at the Giro and the Tour this year, and he hasn’t slowed down much! Has he ever ridden with the team in training camps?

JD: “Vino” is at most major races, and his bike is always there. When there is an opportunity, like the finish is 60, 70 km from the hotel and it’s a nice road, he usually goes by bike. And I can tell you that it is still quite strong.

I remember in December he probably wasn’t in his best climbing shape, but we were doing TTs on the flat [at training camp]. Of all the runners and him, he was certainly not the slowest. He still has it.

I always found him direct. You send him a message, you always get a quick response. He comes to all the big races and on the bus, the leaders manage the meeting, but he also gives his vision. I noticed on the bus that he will speak with the riders individually in addition to the race meeting about what you should be looking to do and how things are going.

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