In April last year, Eddie Dunbar took an impressive win at the U23 Tour of Flanders that marked him as one of the most promising young riders in the sport. It was the culmination of a strong early season campaign where he impressed at both the Volta ao Alentejo and Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux.
However, at the Giro Ciclistico d’Italia in June, he crashed heavily with his head taking much of the impact. He abandoned the race and struggled in the races in the months afterwards due to the concussion he sustained. He was forced to take a complete break from the bike for three months.
In recent weeks though, the 21 year-old Irish rider, who signed for Aqua Blue Sport at the end of the 2017 season, has shown that not only has he overcome the serious injury sustained but also that he is adapting well to racing at a higher level. Dunbar took a fine fifth place in the Volta Limburg Classic at the end of March after getting into the winning break in the hilly Dutch race. This result followed on from his 21st place overall at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.
We caught up with him earlier this week before Brabantse Pijl and asked him about his recent results.
“It was a massive confidence boost really,” he said of his result at the Volta Limburg Classic. “From when I started at the end of February with my first race, I knew there was a lot of work to be done. Slowly but surely, every race I did I was getting stronger and stronger and I could feel it.
“At the Coppi Bartali, I came out of that pretty strong. I had a bit of bad luck on a windy day and lost a minute which lost my overall place but that’s just bike racing. I went into Limburg with an open mind. The race was hard. I looked at the results from the previous years and I knew that the race split up from early on. If you made it hard, it was going to split.
“The breakaway went and the race never stopped. We caught the breakaway and I found myself in a group of six strong guys, willing to work. Nobody missed a turn and we went all the way to the finish. I didn’t have that kick in the end but it was a massive confidence boost just to be there.”
This weekend, Dunbar lines up at Amstel Gold, which takes place on similar roads to the Volta Limburg Classic. The parcours of both races is similar terrain that he is used to training on.
“They’re like my training roads at home, up and down all the time and not much respite,” he says. “You’re always going left or going right and it’s very stressful racing you could say. Obviously I’m hoping Amstel will be a bit more controlled as there will be WorldTour teams in it.”
To-date, the Corkman’s longest races have been in or around the 200-kilometre mark in length but the step up to Amstel Gold which is 263 kilometres long is not something he is fearful of.
“It doesn’t cross my mind,” he says about the length of the race. “Races I do are beween four and five hours anyway. You’re just adding another hour onto it. It’s going to be an experience, only being 21 years of age, but just to get the opportunity to be in a race like that and gain that experience from such a young age and for the team having the faith to put me in it, that says something. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Following on from Amstel Gold, Dunbar is due to line up at Liège-Bastogne-Liège next week. After the Ardennes races, his attention turns to stage racing where he will have further opportunities to impress.
“I’ve the Tour of Yorkshire, a race I really like,” he says. “Once again, similar to the training roads back in Ireland. It’s a race that’s close to home and I’d like to do well in. Since I’ve known we’ve been in it, it’s always one I’ve had my eye on and especially coming after this long block of hard races, it comes at a good time of year. Then the Tour of Belgium and hopefully the Tour de Suisse.”