Eddie Dunbar showed signs of improving form on stage three of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta del Sol in Spain on Friday, going clear in a strong breakaway inside the final hour of racing.
The Irishman and several other riders bridged across to the Briton Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) on the last of the day’s big climbs and while the group was ultimately hauled back by the bunch with 22 kilometres remaining, Dunbar had enough left in the tank to try again two kilometres later.
Overnight race leader Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) reeled him back in, with Dunbar subsequently caught behind a crash inside the final three kilometres. The stage was won by his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Magnus Sheffield, who jumped clear on the uphill drag to the line and finished three seconds clear of the chasing group.
Dunbar placed 19th and, as per UCI rules relating to those delayed by an incident inside the final three kilometres of races, was given the same finishing time as the riders chasing Sheffield.
After riding for the team on the opening two stages, he is 51st overall and eighth in the mountains classification starting Saturday’s penultimate stage.
Meanwhile Sam Bennett will get his season underway on Sunday when the UAE Tour begins in Abu Dhabi. He told The Irish Times in recent days that the racing and training lost last year due to injury means that he is still building form.
“It (the race on Sunday) will be more getting back into the rhythm of racing, trying to get in the rhythm with the teammates and with the leadout train,” he said. “Expectations aren’t high, just because the form is taking longer to build up.”
The Bora-hansgrohe rider is confident he will reach top shape in time for the Tour de France, a major target for the season. He won two stages plus the green jersey in the race in 2020.
Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta del Sol
Stage three Lucena to Otura: 1 Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) 153.2 kilometres in 3 hours 54'37", 2 S Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) 3", 3 S Dewulf (AG2R Citroen Team), 4 B Turner (Ineos Grenadiers), 5 M Vansevenant (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team).
Irish: 19 E Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) 3".
Overall classification after three stages:
1 Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) 13 hours 9 mins 41”, 2 M Angel Lopez Moreno (Astana Qazaqstan Team) 8”, 3 S Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) 10”, 4 D Devenyns (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team), 5 S Cras (Lotto Soudal), 6 J Haig (Bahrain Victorious) all same time.
Irish: 51 E Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) 3'49".
Mountains classification: 1 Jon Barrenetxea Golzarri (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) 30, 2 X Isasa Larrañaga (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 21, 3 A Cuadros Morata (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) 12.
Irish: 8 E Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) 3.