Ireland’s Eddie Dunbar takes over race leader’s jersey in Italy

Cork rider leads the overall standings of a stage race for the first time in his pro career

Eddie Dunbar has jumped from second to first overall in the prestigious Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali in Italy, finishing in a select front group at the end of Wednesday’s stage two and taking over the race lead.

The Irish Ineos Grenadiers rider had finished just behind breakaway companion Mauro Schmid (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) on Tuesday’s opening leg and, with time bonuses taking into account, started Wednesday’s stage six second behind.

Schmid got into difficulty during the undulating 165.9 kilometre stage to Longiano and was dropped, making Dunbar the virtual race leader. He then rolled in as part of a 17-man front group led home by his team-mate Ethan Hayter, ending the day first in the general classification. Schmid trailed in 16 minutes behind.

Dunbar is now six seconds ahead of Hayter, who collected bonus seconds for his stage win. Matteo Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco) is a further eight seconds behind in third.

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The Corkman now leads the overall standings of a stage race for the first time in his professional career. He is also first in the mountains classification, and fourth in the points standings.

The 2.1-ranked event continues on Thursday with a mountainous third stage starting and finishing in San Marino. It concludes with a 12-kilometre summit finish.

Meanwhile Sam Bennett had a frustrating day in the Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne in Belgium. He and his Bora-hansgrohe team-mates were crowded out in the run-in to the concluding sprint, with a chaotic main bunch in the finale making it impossible for Bennett and other sprinters such as Mark Cavendish to find a way through prior to the gallop.

Belgian rider Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) took the win in a photo finish ahead of Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco). Bennett rolled in 17th, shaking his head.

He is still building form after missing several months racing last season due to a knee injury. He said that this was also a factor.

“I’m really proud of how the we raced today as a team. In the end it was a question of my condition and my legs,” he explained. “We started pulling in the peloton pretty early and the guys did a great job for me.

“In the final it was super-fast and hard, I’m still missing the final punch a bit to close gaps and accelerate again and again. Within the last kilometre there was a crash that caused a bit of chaos and I lost the wheel of [leadout man] Danny van Poppel who rode a fantastic finale for me.

“I’m sure a better result would have been possible on the wheel of Danny. We have some tough weeks behind us but when we keep riding like this results will click rather sooner than later.”

Finally, young Irish rider Archie Ryan has confirmed he is back in training after a crash in a recent event in Belgium. He fell early on in the Youngster Coast Challenge last Friday, hitting one of his knees on the ground. That prompted a scare as he was out for most of last season due to a knee injury.

“It made my knee swell up so [I] had to take it easy for a few days,” he said. “But thankfully I’m back training again now.”

Ryan will be relieved not to miss the upcoming Volta Limburg Classic on April 2nd. He competes with the Jumbo-Visma Development team for young riders, but has been given a guest slot with the Dutch squad’s WorldTour wing for the race. It will be his first time to compete with the top-level team, one of the sport’s most successful.

Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali Italy (2.1)

Stage 2, Riccione to Longiano: 1 Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) 165.9 kilometres in 4 hours 11.46, 2 M Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco), 3 B Tulett (Ineos Grenadiers), 4 N Conci (Italy), 5 N Tesfazion (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) all same time. Irish: 15 E Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) same time

General classification after stage 2: 1 Eddie Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) 8 hours 24.40, 2 E Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) @ 6 secs, 3 M Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco) @ 14 secs, 4 B Tulett (Ineos Grenadiers) @ 16 secs, 5 N Tesfazion (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) @ 20 secs.

Points classification: 1 Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) 16, 2 M Schmid (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) 10, 3 M Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco) 9. Irish: 4 E Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) 8

Mountains classification: 1 Eddie Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) 11, 2 E Zardini (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) 10, 3 G Bortoluzzi (Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek) 10

Young rider classification: 1 Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) 8 hours 24.46, 2 B Tulett (Ineos Grenadiers) @ 10 secs, 3 N Tesfazion (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) @ 14 secs.

Teams: 1 Ineos Grenadiers 25 hours 14.46, 2 UAE Team Emirates @ 14 secs, 3 Italy @ 2.48.

Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne, Belgium (1.UWT)

Brugge to De Panne: 1 Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 207.9 kilometres in 4

hours 45.41, 2 D Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco), 3 N Bouhanni

(Arkea-Samsic), 4 M Walscheid (Cofidis), 5 O Kooij (Jumbo-Visma)

Irish: 17 S Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), 40 R Mullen (Bora-Hansgrohe) both

same time, 126 B Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) @ 1.29