He’s been a professional rider for five seasons but, incredibly, Eddie Dunbar has ridden just one three week Grand Tour to date. That’s all set to change in 2023 after a move to the Australian BikeExchange-Jayco team, and the pledge of leadership status at the Australian squad.
Speaking to The Irish Times, a senior team official has confirmed that the Cork man will spearhead the squad in at least one Grand Tour next season.
”We haven’t announced anything but the Giro d’Italia is the plan at the moment moving forward. He will be our general classification guy there,” Head Sports Director Matt White said. Dunbar rode the race once before back in 2019, finishing third on a stage and a solid 22nd overall. That plus other results highlighted his potential but because he was part of the leader-heavy Team Sky/Ineos Grenadiers squad for several years, he often had to sacrifice his chances for others.
He also found himself overlooked for selection in some big races and this plus some spells of illness and injury meant he didn’t get a chance to compete in another Grand Tour after 2019.
Dunbar is a very ambitious rider and was hoping for selection for this year’s Giro, with many believing participation was all but certain after he won the Settimana Coppi e Bartali in March. Despite this, his first pro victory, the team instead selected another rider for the Italian tour, greatly frustrating Dunbar.
He responded by winning the Tour de Hongrie in May and confirmed he was considering a move to another team in order to have greater personal chances. BikeExchange-Jayco had sought his signature years before and sealed the deal with a three year contract.
”There’s no doubt that he’s missed opportunities there in Grand Tours,” White said. “He’s only done one. So there are opportunities that have been missed on that front.
”But he obviously had some opportunities this year and he took them with both hands, winning two stage races. So he’s taken opportunities when he’s had a chance, sometimes, and then other times he just hasn’t had the chance, especially on the Grand Tour front, to show what his worth is.”
Dunbar will be one of two designated general classification leaders on the team, with British rider Simon Yates the other. The latter will lead the squad in next year’s Tour de France, while Dunbar will get full backing in the Giro d’Italia.
Importantly, he knows this months in advance of the race, and has a set racing plan to help him build form.
A strong climber and very talented rider, the 26-year-old will have his best chance yet to prove himself in 2023 and beyond.
Indeed he may well end up doing two Grand Tours; White confirms that a start in the Vuelta a España in August is also on the cards. Aside from giving him more opportunities for success, riding two three-week races in one season should further aid his athletic development.
After a long time playing second fiddle, Dunbar is poised for bigger things in the months and years ahead.