Snowbird • Shortly after standing on the Tour of Utah podium, Joe Dombrowski munched on a bag of Sun Chips with supreme satisfaction.
What 21-year-old, after all, would turn down free food?
Noticing the crumbs falling all over Dombrowski's baby blue jersey earned Saturday for being the Tour of Utah's "Best Young Rider" Bissell rider Ben Jacques-Maynes leaned in and jokingly admonished him.
So it goes for the Tour's greenest riders. With most cyclists roughly a decade older, the members of Bontrager-Livestrong are used to taking grief from their competition. A few hours before Dombrowski placed third on Stage 5 traditionally known as the "Queen" stage for its 12,000 feet of brutal climbs it was 40-year-old Jens Voigt who gave him some shtick.
In Monday's pre-Tour news conference, Voigt was the one who laid some praise on the latest generation of American riders. In particular, he singled out Timmy Duggan, who finished Friday's stage with the King of the Mountain jersey.
But next to Bontrager-Livestrong, the 29-year-old Duggan is a grizzled vet. Every rider the U-23 team brought to Utah clears the age limit with ease. The oldest, Ian Boswell, was born on Feb. 7, 1991.
Finishing fourth, Boswell just missed the podium, where Dombrowski cut a somewhat awkward sight. Standing next to BMC's Johann Tschopp who won the stage and took the overall lead and NetApp's Leopold Koenig, Dombrowski's lanky 6-foot-2 frame and baby face made him look like a high school sophomore. And lining his face, a few pimples instead of stubble.
The differences are clear in team chemistry as well.
Bontrager-Livestrong riders may have turned out some promising results top-five stage finishes at the Tour of California and various jerseys at the Tour of Utah but they're still only on the cusp of an established pro career. As such, they stick together with a more carefree vibe, often stopping for frozen yogurt during breaks in their training schedule.
"A lot of these other pro teams, these guys are married, they have kids. They're just a lot more independent," Dombrowski said. "On our team, we're all pretty young so we do everything together on and off the bike."
They're showing up together on the bike as well. Three team riders entered the weekend ranked 25th, 26th and 27th overall, ahead of big names such as defending two-time Tour of Utah champion Levi Leipheimer. On Saturday's climb, Dombrowski and Boswell passed the Tour de France veteran on their final attack a passing of the torch of sorts.
"You're suffering pretty badly at that point, but looking back on it, it's a surprise for sure," Dombrowski said. "For me and my teammate Ian Boswell to be up there, it means a lot."
When the pair crossed the finish, the announcer praised them as the "Bontrager boys" still not men despite cracking legal drinking age. If their rise can coincide with the growth of races in California, Utah and Colorado well, the average American may even start paying attention.
Storylines Tour of Utah Stage 5
R BMC's Johann Tschopp claims the yellow jersey with a win on Stage 5, traditionally known as the "Queen" stage for its tortuous climb into Snowbird.
• Bontrager-Livestrong, the Tour of Utah's youngest team, lands its first rider on the podium when Joe Dombrowski places third.
• Dombrowski and his teammates were all born in 1991 or later, giving the team a uniquely youthful vibe.