Eddie Dunbar turns the screw with impressive show of strength

Posted on: February 17th, 2019

Eddie Dunbar Tour de la Provence

Eddie Dunbar attacked the final stage hard as the race split behind him; an ambitious and powerful performance showing his progress in the sport is accelerating.

 

He may be an U23 Tour of Flanders winner and ridden so well in many races in recent years, but Eddie Dunbar has truly announced his arrival in the top tier of pro cycling today.

Just as he had ridden during the last two days of action in the Tour de la Provence, getting clear on the final climb, the young Irishman did it once more on the final stage today.

But this time only one man could go with him. And had David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) shared the workload earlier with the Irish rider, they would have made it all the way.

Instead, they spent 13km clear of the chasing peloton only to be caught with 1km remaining.

And the stage came down to a sprint from a reduced bunch won by John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo).

But it was a terrific ride by Dunbar and arguably the best of his fledgling career.

When he made his move on the final climb, his legs looked far superior to anyone else in the field.

And despite being caught so close to the finish, he still managed to take 12th place after 162.2km today from Avignon to Aix-en-Provence.

Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb) was also in the front group, which numbered just 45 riders. He finished in 32nd place and was 39th overall after the four days of racing.

 

Eddie Dunbar Tour de la Provence

If he’d ridden with Eddie Dunbar, Gaudu may well have swapped his young rider classification jersey for that of overall winner.

 

Gaudu had kept Dunbar out of the young rider classification leader’s jersey for the whole race. And though he marked the Irish rider today; Dunbar did all the work.

He never wavered the whole way to the red kite with the bunch, including some of cycling’s biggest names, lined out after him and initially unable to close him down.

In the end he was absorbed into the reduced bunch and had to watch on as the stage went elsewhere.

But it was a really impressive bid by Dunbar to go for victory on the day and move up overall having begun the stage just 15 seconds off the race leader’s jersey.

In the end there was no change in the overall; Gorka Izagirre (Astana) winning the race outright with Dunbar keeping his 7th.

But the manner in which Dunbar has raced over the last three days – with controlled aggression and such impressive strength – very strongly suggests he will not have to wait long to land a very big victory.

 

How the race unfolded

With just under 14km remaining, and the last of the early breakaway just seconds clear of the reduced peloton, Dunbar attacked hard on the upper slopes of the final categorised climb.

 

Eddie Dunbar Tour de la Provence

Degenkolb was dropped on the final climb but his whole team got him back on. They then went on to lead him out to victory.

 

He was marked by Gaudu, but the Irishman opened a very big gap, leaving the rest of the field scattering after him.

About 1km into the attack, and with Gaudu sitting on the Irishman, the gap was continuing to grow and the chase behind was not organised.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) then decided to attack after the two leaders but he was quickly caught.

Eddie Dunbar went over the top of the climb, still on the front, and drilled his way down the descent; the gap just over 10 seconds with 11km remaining.

As the two leaders dipped under 11km to go, Dunbar looked back and saw how big the gap was. He then gestured to Gaudu, who hadn’t hit the front once, to come through and do some work.

However, Dunbar’s remonstrations were to no avail, with Gaudu happy to stay on the Irish rider’s wheel; following team orders no doubt.

With 7km remaining, and the gap getting bigger, a number of riders tried to get clear of the bunch.

Crucially, up front Gaudu had started to contribute to the workload. He was on the same time as Dunbar overall, both 15 seconds behind the race leader Izagirre (Astana) at the start of the day.

 

Eddie Dunbar Tour de la Provence

The final podium: Izagirre won from Simon Clarke, though both were equal on time. Tony Gallopin was just one second back in 3rd place.

 

However, because the gap between the peloton and the two leaders hovered around 10 seconds, Astana appeared unwilling or unable to lead the chase.

In the end it was Trek-Segafredo who hit the front; working to bring back the two breakaway men so Degenkolb could try for a stage win.

However, with just 2km to go, the leaders had still their gap and Dunbar was flying towards the chequered flag.

He was giving it everything in a bid to make it all the way, with Gaudu for company and as passenger most of the time.

Sadly, with exactly 1km remaining, the Irish-French breakaway was caught; Gaudu having waited far too long to start working with Dunbar and only putting in token pulls when he did decide to work.

 

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