Following on from his recent fifth place overall at Volta ao Alentejo (UCI 2.1), Irish rider Eddie Dunbar took another top placing today as he finished in fifth at the Classica da Arrabida (1.2) today. It was a good day all round for the Axeon Hagens Berman as Logan Owen captured the King of the Mountains title.
Dunbar overcame a crash and damage to his bike that left him unable to switch gears on the climb to the finish. The Irish Under 23 national time trial champion crossed the finish line only 21 seconds behind solo winner Amaro Antunes (W52/FC Porto). Sérgio Paulinho (Efapel) was runner-up and Andreas Vangstad (Team Sparebanken Sør) was third.
“Basically, everything was going really smoothly,” Dunbar said. “Just like the way we talked about in the team meeting. Everything was going to plan. Myself, Will Barta and Neilson Powless were the protected riders while the other five were going to control things. It was good to have Logan in the break because the rest of us were able to sit back and be fresh for the finish.
“But it was probably too good to be true. We were going down one of the descents and Neilson crashed. I was behind him and managed to get around him. It was really slippery and he went in to a corner too hot. Will crashed after him and then I crashed 200 meters later. So in the space of a minute or two, everything went downhill – literally. I quickly put my chain back on and Rui and Ivo (Oliveira) waited for me and did a brilliant job of getting me back to the group.
“But I quickly realized I was going to be stuck in one gear for the reminder of the race because my bike was damaged from the crash. I had the big ring and the smallest in the back – the 12 sprocket – which is not a great gear for climbing. The guys got me to the foot of the climb in fifth wheel and my legs were really good today. So it was disappointing not to be able to finish it off for everyone. I probably averaged about 30 revolutions per minute the whole time up to the finish on gravel roads and cobbles.
“Today was definitely there for the taking. But that’s bike racing. To have a bad day, you have to know what a good day feels like. The team rode superbly. It was just unfortunate circumstances. But it shows the strength and depth of our team. Every day we are competing. There will be other days to prove ourselves.”
Owen meanwhile spent nearly 140 kilometres at the head of the race. Winner of a stage of Volta ao Alentejo last month, the 21-year-old American was first over the top of all but the last of the five categorized climbs.
“The plan going into today was to help the guys because I have been sick the past two days,” Owen said. “I didn’t mean to be in the breakaway, but it worked out that I could help my teammates because they could sit in behind in the peloton.”
From what was originally an escape group of six, Owen’s climbing prowess quickly whittled the front group down until only Norwegian Trond Trondsen (Team Sparebanken Sor) was with him.
“The two of us worked together the last 70 kilometers,” Owen said. “I would say he was stronger on the flats and I was stronger on the climbs. I just kept a good tempo for him on the climbs and he let me take the KOMs (king of the mountain prizes). There was no real organization once the group from the peloton came up to us. They were asking me to pull, but I knew the other guys probably had fresher legs. So I just followed as many attacks as possible before pulling the pin at the base of the last climb.”
Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Koos Moerenhout said the late crash that took down three of the team’s riders was unavoidable on the rain-slickened roads.
“We saw that we had a great team today, but we just had back luck,” he said. “Fortunately, all the guys seem to be fine with no serious injuries.”