Dombrowski emerged through the rain and attacks from a large 25-man breakaway to win stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia, as the poor weather conditions and steep climbs in the Apennines shook up the race.
Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up) finished just 13 seconds down on Dombrowski after also being in the break and took the pink race leader's jersey. The Italian now leads Dombrowski by 22 seconds.
The battle amongst the expected general classification favourites was fought up behind the competition for the stage win and the new race lead on the steep final climb of the Colle Passerino. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) were the strongest, attacking on the climb and forging their way clear.
A group of favourites followed just behind, 11 seconds down on the Bernal group, with Simon Yates (BikeExchange), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
Australian favourite Jai Hindley (Team DSM), Nick Schultz (Team BikeExchange), Pavel Sivakov (INEOS Grenadiers), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segfredo) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) lost 34 seconds, while George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) and Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) were the big losers on the day, each conceding over three minutes.
For the stage-winner Dombrowski, it was a triumph for the highly-touted rider that came on the scene after he won the 2012 Under 23 Giro d’Italia and turned professional with Team Sky. His career was stymied with blood flow problems in his leg and he had to resort to iliac artery surgery. His last success came at the 2019 Tour of Utah before he moved to UAE Team Emirates but he was back to his best in the poor conditions and steep climbs of this Giro d’Italia.
“I was able to get a gap, it wasn't enough for the pink jersey but I think the stage win is a nice way to finish the day,” said Dombrowski. "I'm really happy with today, obviously. I was feeling good in the last 50km and was just trying not to do too much work and be conservative because I knew the last climb was really a tough one.
"I needed to be ready for attacks and I was able to follow everything. I knew De Marchi was probably the strongest in the break so if I took his wheel I'd be in a good spot."
De Marchi didn't win the stage but took a handsome prize in the maglia rosa. The Italian is an attacking rider, and has been chasing this goal for years.
He was emotional after gaining enough time to take pink from fellow Italian Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), who bowed out of pink after working for team leaders Bernal and Sivakov early in the stage.
“I’d been thinking about the maglia rosa all stage and even in the last few days," said De Marchi. "I thought I’d lost my chance at one point and would have been devastated after making a mistake but the famous rule came true: Never give up. And in the, end it all worked out."
“I’m going to cry if I think about wearing the maglia rosa. This is a small reward for the thousands of attempts I made during my 11-year career. I’m going to try to really enjoy it. It’s for me and my wife Anna.”
A 25-man breakaway eventually formed out the front of the race with a strong trio of riders, Chris Juul-Jensen (Team BikeExchange) accompanied by the Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert-Materieaux pair of Rein Taaramae and Quinten Hermans, jumping clear on the Castello di Carpineti with 75 kilometres to go.
Hermans sacrificed his chances to help Taaramae and pushed the gap out before being dropped. The chasing group behind was in hot pursuit, with the peloton further back and more concerned about the final climb than chasing down the riders in front. The leading duo went into the foot of the final climb, the chasers were 1:20 behind with 10km to go but the imposing climb of the Colle Passerino loomed.
The leading pair were swallowed by an attack from De Marchi, and then when Dombrowski went clear on the brutal 16 per cent gradient section of the climb it was clear that he was heading off to the stage win. De Marchi soldiered on to finish second and limit his losses to Dombrowski, ensuring that he would emerge from the stage as the new race leader.