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Amazing Dombrowski conquers Tour of Utah queen stage

With a strong attack 8km from the top of the final climb, Dombrowski rode away to a big solo win in the queen stage of the Tour of Utah, distancing his rivals by more than a minute and taking the overall lead








09.08.2015 @ 00:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Garmin) put years of suffering behind him when he took a first professional victory in dominant fashion on the queen stage at the Tour of Utah. Having attacked 8km from the top of the final climb, he kept extending his advantage over his chasers during the final part of the ascent to reach the top with a advantage over and move into a comfortable race lead.


A few years ago, Joe Dombrowski was regarded as one of the biggest talents in the world after he won the Baby Giro and mixed it up with the pro riders in the hardest stages of the Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge. A pure climber, many expected him to become the next big American grand tour contender.


His results earned him a contract with the Sky team but his two years with the British formation ended as a big disappointments. Only in last year’s Tour of California where he worked for Bradley Wiggins did he show any signs of the talent that had made him such a hot topic on the transfer market.


For the 2015 season, he decided to move to the Cannondale-Garmin team whose manager Jonathan Vaughters still believed in his talent. With a seventh place in the Tour de San Luis and a fourth place in the Tour of California, he has shown signs of his former level in the first part of the year and now he is aiming for selection for the Vuelta a Espana.


The Tour of Utah is his final chance to prove himself and after defending champion Tom Danielson was unable to start the race, he has suddenly got the chance to ride for himself. Today he grabbed that opportunity with both hands when he crushed the opposition in the queen stage.


The stage ended with a 13.7km climb to the finish at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and the 7% average gradient was always going to take its toll. As they hit the bottom, the trio of Joey Rossopf 8BMC), Rob Britton (Smartstop) and Ben King (Cannondale) had an advantage over a 30-rider peloton that was led by the Colombia team that had done a lot of damage on the previous climb of the Guardman Pass.


Colombia continued to set a steady pace in the first part of the climb, slowly bringing the gap down to 15 seconds as they entered the final 8km. That’s when the action started as Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale) attacked and together with Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) and Rob Squire (Hincapie), they bridged the gap to the leaders.


King went straight to the front to work for his leader and very soon the two Cannondale riders got a gap. Race leader Michael Woods bridged the gap to Pirazzi and Squire who had dropped Rosskopf and Britton.


Chris Horner (Airgas) had tried to bring the break back but it was Frank Schleck (Trek) who came flying out of the group, bridging the gap to Woods, Squire and Pirazzi. The latter fell off the pace before they joined the two Cannondale riders in front.


When King swung off, Dombrowski hit the front and that was too much for Woods and Squire who were distanced. However, Schleck was glued to his wheel as they distanced their two chasers and a bigger group further back.


Soon it became apparent that Schleck was on his limit and with 6km to go, he cracked. He took a moment to recover as he was picked up by Woods and Squire who were 15 seconds behind the lone Dombrowski.


Horner had finally got the diesel engine going and together with Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka) he caught the 3 chasers with 5km to go. At this point, the gap had gone out to 32 seconds.


Woods was doing all the work in the chase group and that was too much for Squire who was distanced. However, he was unable to match Dombrowski who had extended his lead to 45 seconds as he passed the 3km to go mark.


With 2km to go, the gap had gone out to 1.15 and this was the signal for Schleck to finally start to cooperate with Woods. However, Berhane and Horner were still just sitting on.


Entering the final kilometre, the gap was 1.17 and as the road flattened out it was Berhane coming to the front to set the pace. While Dombrowski enjoyed the time to celebrate his magnificent solo win, Berhane rode hard until he launched a strong sprint. However, he was passed by Woods and had to settle for third, with the group losing 1.17 to Dombrowski.


Dombrowski had started the stage 27 seconds behind Woods in the overall standings and so he moves into the race leader with a comfortable 50-second margin. However, he faces a stern test in tomorrow’s final stage if he wants to win the race. The course is mostly flat with a category 2 climb at the midpoint but in the end the riders face the tough HC climb of Empire Pass which summits just 8km from the downhill finish in Park City


The queen stage

After five days without any major summit finishes, it was finally time for the climbers to kick into action in the queen stage which brought the riders over 177.7km from Salt Lake City to a mountaintop finish at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resport. The first 30km were almost all uphill and included a category 4 and a category 3 climb and then the riders faced a long flat section that led to the bottom of the category 1 Guardman Pass. A long descent would finally bring them to the bottom of the final category HC climb which averaged 7% over 13.7km.


It was a perfect day for bike racing when the riders gathered for the start of the hardest stage of the race. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they headed out for their neutral ride.


Lots of attacks

With the first part of the stage being uphill, it was always going to be very difficult to control and that prediction turned out to be correct. A Jelly Belly rider was the first to try and it was a large 18-rider front group that formed after 4km of racing while Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin) and Johann van Zyl (MTN-Qhubea) tried to bridge the gap.


Howes made it across to join the lies of Connor McCutcheon (Arigas, Flavio De Luna (Smartstop), Michael Torckler (Budget Forklifts), Luca Chirico (Bardiani) and Luis Lemus (Airgas) in the break before race leader Woods even tried to join the move. However, he never made it across and the injection of speed in the peloton made sure that the break was caught.


A trio is established

Instead, it was the trio of KOM leader Greg Daniel (Axeon), Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts) and Rob Britton (Smartstop) that escaped while Alexandr Braico (Jelly Belly) and Chirico took off in pursuit. After 12km of racing, the leaders had advantages of 30 seconds and 1.00 respectively.


The peloton was not slowing down yet and as the attacking continued, the group was whittled down to just around 30 riders. The chasers were caught and instead a new chase group with Dion Smith (Hincapie), Ruben Guerreiro (Axeon), James Oram (Axeon), Flavio De Luna (Smartstop), Rosskopf, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani), King, Carlos Ramirez (Colombia) and van Zyl was created.


The casers make the junction

Daniel led Bobridge and Britton over the top of the first climb while van Zyl was first from the chase group. At this point the gap was only 20 seconds and after 24km of fast racing the junction was made and an 11-rider front group was formed.


Daniel and van Zyl were first and second respectively in the KOM competition and so sprinted for the points at the top of the second climb. However, the South African didn’t even try to respond to the acceleration from his American rival who took maximum points.


Optum take control

Meanwhile, the peloton had slowed down and allowed a regrouping to take place. They crested the summit 3.05 behind the leader.


Optum took control of the peloton but they were not chasing yet and when Colbrelli beat Smith and Oram in the first intermediate sprint, the gap was gone out to 3.45. Meanwhile, Matt Goss (MTN-Qhubeka), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis and Tommy Nankervis (Budget Forklifts) abandoned the race.


More teams start to chase

After 55km of racing, Optum had allowed the gap to go out to 5 minutes before they picked up the pace. 10km later they had reduced their deficit to 4.20 put the escapees had pushed it out to 5 minutes when they entered the final 100km.


The gap stayed around that mark for a little while before Airgas and Drapac started to work with the Optum team. That made a difference as they gap started to slowly come down. As they entered the final 75km, it was 4.35 and when five kilometres later it was 3.30.


The gap comes down

It was now a big alliance between Optum, Trek, Jelly Belly, Airgas and Drapac and they made sure that the gap stayed between 3.00 and 3.30 for a while. Meanwhile, Brodie Talbot (Budget Forklifts) abandoned.


Colbrelli beat Smith and King in the final intermediate sprint at the bottom of the Guardsman Pass where the Unitedhealthcare team took control of the peloton. The gap had been brought down to 2.40 as they started to climb.


The break splits up

Colbrelli was the first to get dropped from the break before Ramirez and van Zyl also lost contact. Impressively, Ramirez managed to rejoin the group but he was in a lot of pain at the back of the group.


While Eric Young (Optum) abandoned, Jelly Belly upped the pace in the peloton and they brought the gap down to 2.10 with 50km to go. They brought Colbrelli and van Zyl back while Bobridge was the next rider to get dropped from the front group.


Colombia accelerate

With 48km to go, Colombia hit the front of the peloton and made a massive acceleration. While Rossopf got mechanical assistance in the break, they reduced the gap to just 50 seconds with 45km to go.


This forced Rosskopf to ride hard in the break and his pace was too much for Ramirez, Oram, Smith and Guerreiro who were all distanced. Daniel was the next to lose contact and finally King and De Luna also had to surrender, leaving just Rosskopf and Britton in the front group.


King rejoins the leaders

Rosskopf led Britton over the top while King and De Luna followed 10 seconds later. Daniel was 5th, Smith 6th and Guerreiro 7th.


The front duo had managed to push their lead out to 1.10 and they continued to extend it as they headed down the descent. King managed to rejoin them while De Luna and the rest of the early attackers were caught by the peloton.


Colombia in control

Colombia continued to push the pace but they were losing ground and the gap had gone out to 2 minutes when they entered the final 25km. Meanwhile, Colombia briefly disappeared from the front of the 30-rider peloton as they took a short moment to recover. This allowed Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) to take off but he never managed to catch the leaders.


Colombia went back to work and when they entered the final 15km, the gap was only 50 seconds. As they hit the bottom of the final climb, it was down to 30 seconds and the scene for the dramatic finale was set.



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