Eddie Dunbar hoping for strong showing in Tour de la Provence

Corkman is a climbing specialist and will have a strong chance in second stage

Eddie Dunbar: “I felt like I was one of the strongest riders in the race last year.” Photograph:  Justin Setterfield/Getty Images.

Eddie Dunbar: “I felt like I was one of the strongest riders in the race last year.” Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images.

 

Eddie Dunbar got what he hopes will be his best season yet underway on Thursday, competing in the opening stage of the Tour de la Provence in France. The 149.5km race ended with a big sprint to the line in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, with Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) beating Jakub Mareczko (CCC Team), Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling) and the rest of the bunch.

Dunbar didn’t contest the sprint, rolling across the line in 80th place. After time bonuses were calculated, Dunbar ended the day 84th, ten seconds back. The Corkman is a climbing specialist and will have a strong opportunity to move up the general classification on Friday’s second leg, which covers very undulating terrain en route to La Ciotat.

The stage includes two category one climbs early on, plus two category three ascents. It also concludes with a difficult ramp up to the line, where Dunbar will hope to show well. Depending on his fitness levels, Saturday’s stage could offer even more opportunities. It is flat early on but concludes with a 9.6km climb up to the Chalet Reynard section of Mont Ventoux.

Sunday’s concluding stage is also a difficult one, although the saw-toothed terrain finishes with a descent to the line.

‘Frustrated’

Dunbar finished seventh overall 12 months ago. “I felt like I was one of the strongest riders in the race last year,” he said. “I was frustrated not to come away with a better result from that race with the legs I had. But the fact I was able to be there, compete at the pointy end of the race and still be strong was good. The course this year is a bit harder with a bit more climbing which is good.”

Dunbar turned professional with the Aqua Blue Sport squad in 2018. He switched across to Team Sky when the Irish squad collapsed, riding his first race with the British lineup in September of that year. He continued with the team last season and, under the new title sponsor Team Ineos, finished third in the Tour de Yorkshire.

That performance helped secure a late invite to the squad for the Giro d’Italia, where he finished a superb third on stage 12. His final overall position of 22nd marked the best Grand Tour debut since Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche, thus underlining his talent.

He is still just 23 years of age and is scheduled to ride his second Giro d’Italia this May.

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