Friday 9 December 2016

Dunbar digs deep to secure dazzling win

David Foster

Published 29/05/2016 | 02:30

Eddie Dunbar on the winning line in Baltinglass. Photo: Morgan Treacy / INPHO
Eddie Dunbar on the winning line in Baltinglass. Photo: Morgan Treacy / INPHO

Eddie Dunbar of the Irish National Team put on a dazzling display of riding to win stage seven of An Post Rás, from Dungarvan to Baltinglass, and become the second Irish rider to claim a stage win on this year's race. The Corkman was part of a five-man lead break and won a hard-fought sprint to the line, finishing just ahead of Jai Hindley and yellow jersey leader, Clemens Fankhauser.

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Dunbar's performance moves him up to fourth in the general classification (GC), trailing the 2014 Rás winner, Fankhauser, by 19 seconds going in to the final stage from Kildare to Skerries today. Seven riders began yesterday's stage within 10 seconds of Fankhauser and attacks began from the drop of the flag, many led by Louthman Bryan McCrystal (Louth Asea Wheelworx), but nothing could stick. Current King of the Mountains (KOM), Nikodemus Holler, was majestic on the climbs once again. The German conquered the first three category-three climbs of Killinaspick, Ballygallon and Raheendonore with ease and mounting the final ascent of Mount Leinster he attacked out front alone.

Dunbar kept sight of Holler though and led a group of five riders including Fankhauser and a trio of Australian National Team riders, Hindley, Michael Storer and Lucas Hamilton, to make it six out front. Holler was dropped by the others on the descent, just 40 kilometres from the finish. The lead break, powered by Fankhauser, built a one-minute lead over a chasing pack including Irishmen Mark Dowling (Louth Asea Wheelworx) and Damien Shaw (An Post Chain Reaction).

The chase group's efforts proved to be in vain however, and with only five kilometres to go, the glory was sure to go to one of the front five. Dunbar was relentless in his attacks and on the final stretch in to Baltinglass the Corkman jumped clear, crossing the line milliseconds ahead of Hindley to rapturous applause from the locals.

"To win a stage on a UCI race in your home country is a dream come true," said Dunbar, who was a late inclusion in to this year's Rás. "I've watched the race since I was knee-high and I've always wanted to be one of the 'men of the Rás' so it's great to be standing here as one of them."

Fankhauser goes in to the final day holding a three-second lead over Hindley and a 13-second lead over Hamilton. Today's final stage rolls out from Newbridge at noon and takes the peloton through Meath on to the finish at Skerries.

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