Dombrowski: The last week of the Tour de France can change a lot for Astana
It’s fair to say that Astana Qazaqstan hasn’t had the best Tour de France campaign in the first two weeks of the race with only one top 10 stage to speak of, little representation in the breakaways and no of their eight riders is only fighting for a major ranking.
Alexey Lutsenko’s eighth place finish at Col de Granon was the Kazakh side’s best result so far, with their local star also battling for his second top-10 spot in as many years.
Speaking ahead of the start of Stage 15, a sweltering 202.5km trek through the southern region of Occitanie to the resting place of Carcassonne, American team climber Joe Dombrowski said said Astana’s fortunes could turn around very quickly in the final week of racing. .
“It’s been a little thin,” admitted the 31-year-old. “Lutsenko focused on the GC and he floats a bit there. Obviously last week it can change a lot. It would be nice if he finishes with a good GC. Then those stages in the Pyrenees – if I can go into the break and have good legs, that’s another opportunity.
“Sometimes you see guys who maybe don’t have the best first half of a Grand Tour and then they finish really strong. So every day is a new opportunity. You take a break and that’s the right one. decision and it goes to the line, and you win a stage and all of a sudden it goes from a Grand Tour of a team to a disaster to a great success.
“So it’s little things, you know?
Astana Qazaqstan has had a tough season so far, registering only four wins, two of them at the Kazakhstan National Championships. The team is somehow clear of the WorldTour relegation doldrums based on three seasons’ results, but languishes 21st – last of any WorldTour team – in the 2022 standings.
Vincenzo Nibali’s fourth place at the Giro d’Italia was a rare bright spot, with Dombrowski backing the Italian back in May. Elsewhere, new signings Gianni Moscon (long-COVID) and Miguel Angel López (thigh injury) have been unlucky with illness and injuries.
However, despite the lack of results so far this season, Dombrowski insisted the riders had not come under pressure from management.
“I mean, obviously we’re here to race, but at this point I wouldn’t say the directors or the management put any pressure on it,” he said. “I mean, everyone’s got a different style, right? Personally, I don’t think I respond to pressure any better than positivity. Everyone’s different, but I wouldn’t say that’s the case for us so far.”
On the Tour, the team is fully behind Lutsenko in his bid for a top 10 finish in Paris, although there are opportunities for other riders, including Dombrowski. The American was in the breakaway of stage 9 in Châtel and hopes to be in front again in the Pyrenees to come, even if he admits that his form is not at the level of the Giro.
“Personally, it’s okay,” Dombrowski said. “I wouldn’t say anything exceptional or horrible. I mean, if I’m honest, I think my condition in the Giro was better than here. But I’m trying my best. I was in the breakaway one day but I didn’t. I don’t really have the legs and I’ll try again in the appropriate stages in the Pyrenees, we’ll see.
“I think we just have to see how I’m doing, and in the Pyrenees if I can have a good break… Also with the heat – I don’t really like these super hot conditions. I feel better by cooler weather in terms of performance compared to others. But I mean I can’t change the weather either, so…”
Dombrowski said this heat – reaching 40C as the peloton headed south for the rest day in Carcassonne – could greatly affect the race in the coming days, especially in the battle for the general classification.
“I think it can have a big effect,” he said. “I mean, when it’s hot like this, a few miscalculations or just not feeling good with the weather – someone can lose 15 minutes on a bad day and end their GC run altogether .”