Eddie Dunbar (Axeon Hagens Berman) put in a valiant effort today to try and become the first rider ever to win the U23 versions of both the Tour of Flanders and Liège – Bastogne – Liège. The 20 year-old rode an aggressive race but missed out on the victory with the win going instead to Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal U23).
166 riders lined up at the start with a selection of UCI Continental, national and Belgian teams. The riders faced nine climbs along the route – Côte de Mormont, Côte de Mont, Côte de Wanne, Côte du Rosier, Côte de la Vecquée, Côte de la Redoute, Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, Côte de Saint-Nicolas and Côte d’Ans.
Dunbar and his Axeon Hagens Berman team mates were active from the start with Neilson Powless and Jhonatan Narvaez getting in an early break. They were soon brought back with Dunbar getting into the next break which once again wasn’t given much leeway.
With 60 kilometres raced, a significant group of 12 riders went clear which included Michael Storer (Australia), Massimo Vanderaerden (An Post-Chain Reaction), Powless and last year’s winner Logan Owen (Axeon Hagens Berman).
This group gained nearly 1’30” before being caught by the peloton on the Côte de Wanne. Soon after the summit, Dunbar once again went clear, this time with 2016 An Post Rás runner-up Jai Hindley (Australia) who finished 2nd overall at the Herald Sun Tour earlier this season and Scott MacKinnon (An Post-Chain Reaction).
The trio worked well together and gained nearly one a half minutes but the peloton reacted to the danger and on the Côte de la Redoute, they were reabsorbed by the bunch.
On the third last climb of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, four riders attacked – Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal U23), Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott), William Barta (Axeon Hagens Berman) and James Knox (Team Wiggins).
On the penultimate climb of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, numerous riders went out the back of the peloton as the four attackers built a lead of 30″ as they approached the final climb.
The four leaders stayed clear on the Côte d’Ans and on the run in to the finish and they entered the velodrome together. It was the Belgian rider Lambrecht who proved fastest in the sprint to the line just narrowly beating Knox with Barta third to add to his win at the Ronde de l’Isard last year.
Dunbar finished in 72nd place, 7’44” down on the winner.