Between the Tour of Utah and the Vuelta, why not line up for the country’s premier endurance mountain-bike race?
On Aug. 13, Joe Dombrowski, who recently re-signed with the Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team, will line up at 10,152 feet in elevation and begin racing into the Colorado high country. When the shotgun blasts, one of the country’s best climbers on the road will try to translate that to the dirt.
So, why Leadville?
“It was really something we discussed half-jokingly, and I half-committed to, provided that it would fit inside my race schedule,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve had a big early season with a focus on the Giro and a lot of race days so I think it’s motivating in a way to have some fun objectives in the latter half of the year. Initially, I was the most hesitant but Jonathan Vaughters, our media guy Matt Beaudin, and Cannondale loved the idea. It’s a little tight between Utah and the Vuelta but I’m just gonna go for it and have fun. I started racing bikes in the dirt, so it’s back to my roots.”
Dombrowski raced the Giro, where he fought for stage wins in the mountains on several occasions, and he’s a gifted climber, that’s no secret. Leadville presents an interesting challenge for any racer, however, road or mountain, as the parcours is a little thin line on a map, mostly drawn above 10,000 feet above sea level. The course, mostly dirt double track with a bit of trail mixed in, is littered with climbs, though two stand out: Columbine and Powerline. Columbine begins at mile 40 and takes riders up to 12,424 in 10 miles. Powerline is a ghastly slog that comes with about 20 miles to go. All told, racers climb about 11,500 feet over the 103 miles.
Dombrowski will race the Tour of Utah, head to Leadville and then fly to Spain for the start of the Vuelta.
“From a road schedule perspective, it’s certainly not a conventional run-in to the Vuelta. I wouldn’t say it’s not ideal, but in truth, it might not be,” he said.
The event marks a sharp difference for the roadie: in road racing from a young age, most details are sorted out for racers, like entries, tire selection, tire pressure, transit, what to eat… and it goes on. For Leadville, Dombrowski is having to consider some of these factors on his own.
“It’s a really unique challenge for me,” Dombrowski said. “As a professional road cyclist, I don’t do anything for myself. My bike is prepped, my soigneurs are in the feed zone, and all the logistics surrounding the race are taken care of. Here it’s like back in the old days going to junior mountain bike races with my dad. I’ve got to pick my gears, pump up my tires with the help from my mechanic Tom Hopper, have my guy (purportedly Mr. Jonathan Vaughters) in the feed zone, and scarf down oatmeal at 4:30 a.m. to be ready to roll out at sunrise. It’s a lot to take on, but I’m up for the challenge. Don’t forget to have a bit of fun in your career!”
Dombrowski is part of the World Bicycle Relief squad at the event. As part of his entry, he’s helping to fundraise for the charity, which aims to provide bikes for those in remote parts of the world. His fundraising page can be found here.