Eddie Dunbar finished 10th on the stage and jumped up 11 places to ninth overall on day four of the CRO Race in Croatia, but said afterwards that he wished the climbs were more difficult.
Dunbar’s Jayco-AlUla team were prominent throughout, driving the pace in a bid to whittle things down and set him up for what they hoped would be a big showing. In the end the climbs were shorter and punchier than he would have liked, enabling explosive riders to contend for the stage rather than pure climbers like Dunbar.
“On paper it looked like a really tough stage,” he said following the 191-kilometre race to Labin.
“There was obviously a big climb in the middle. We decided we were going to set a hard tempo on that just to reduce the bunch a bit and make the race hard. I think the guys did a super job with that. We rode hard until the final circuits. I expected it to be a bit more selective on the climbs. On paper they probably looked a bit more difficult than they actually were.
“It was still a tough finish. Obviously there was that 400m cobble section to the finish, that was probably the hardest bit of the climb. I just probably needed it to be a bit longer to be a bit more selective.”
The stage was won by the Slovenian rider Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious), who Dunbar would normally be much stronger than if the climbs had been longer. Dunbar finished in the same time and sits eight seconds behind the new race leader Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) with two stages remaining.
Those unfortunately feature much flatter finales, meaning that the race will likely be decided in bonus seconds and bunch sprints, something that doesn’t play to his strengths.
Still, he will be pleased to be competitive following his return from the three crashes which forced him out of the Vuelta a España, and he is also encouraged by how his Jayco-AlUla squad performed.
“I think we rode really well as a team. It was a good day, it was worth trying as it was the only GC [general classification] day on paper. We had to try, really, given the nature of the course. It just didn’t work out today, but it was a good team performance.”
Meanwhile Irish junior rider Patrick Casey has received a big boost with the announcement that he was one of two winners of the Red Bull Junior Brothers programme. The international contest was run off in recent months to select riders for the junior development team affiliated to the Bora-Hansgrohe WorldTour squad.
The initial stages of the contest saw Casey and other riders attract attention in a screening drive ran across the Zwift and Strava platforms, with the latter app recording rider times on predefined segments.
Casey, who lives in Britain but declared for Ireland due to family links, posted strong times on the Great Dun Fell and Wrynose Pass in England, as well as two climbs in Spain.
He subsequently was one of 17 riders invited to a training camp at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Centre in Austria in late August, which led in turn to his eventual selection alongside the Austrian Anatol Friedl.
Both riders will be given slots with Bora-Hansgrohe’s Team Auto Eder next season, as well as backing by Red Bull.
“A goal of mine has always been to turn pro. I’ve been cycling since I was 4 years old and it’s really all I’ve ever wanted to do,” Casey said on Thursday.
“To be given this opportunity thanks to Red Bull Junior Brothers is absolutely life-changing for me because now I get to actually give this a go.”
He was second in the 2.1-ranked Pays d’Iroise race in France this year, as well as third in the Irish junior time trial championships and fourth in the road race.
Finally a memorial to the late Gabriel Howard will be unveiled in Stamullen Village at 1pm on October 21st.
Howard competed in 21 consecutive editions of the Rás Tailteann, winning a stage in 1965, and later went on to a wide number of roles in the sport, including team manager of the Stamullen Road Club, event organiser and race commentator. He passed away following a farming accident in 2018, and is remembered fondly by many in the sport.