Monday, December 6, 2021
HomeInterviewsEddie Dunbar - u23 Tour of Flanders 2017 Winner; "I decided to...

Eddie Dunbar – u23 Tour of Flanders 2017 Winner; “I decided to go long”

-

Despite his flyweight 56 kilos Eddie Dunbar has already established himself as one of the worlds’ best U23 riders with top ten finishes in the European and World U23 Time Trial Championships – and riding for the Irish team rather than his usual US Axeon Hagens Berman team he took Ronde victory in that bike riders’ Mecca, historic Oudenaarde.

If ever there was a race tailor made for the King of the hard men, Sean Kelly it was the Ronde van Vlaanderen; but three second places aren’t the same as one win – it remains the only Monument the brilliant Irishman didn’t add to his palmarès.

But Dunbar has finally made amends for Kelly’s disappointments and won over the cobbles and ramps of de Ronde – albeit his win was in the U23 version of the fabled event.

VeloVeritas caught up with the 20 year-old from County Cork not long after his beautiful win thanks to the good offices of Axeon Hagens Berman’s press guru, Sean Weide.

Eddie Dunbar
Eddie takes the win in the u23 Ronde. Photo©Jason Joyce Ghijs

 Congratulations, Eddie – talk us through your win, please.

“The Irish team were over for the week previous to get familiar with the parcours, I did a recon. on Wednesday but decided not to bother with the first part of the course – just the finishing circuit, I knew that’s where the decisions would be made.

“On the circuit everyone was tired and the lead group kept diminishing, I watched and waited, looking for an opportunity – but I kept eating and I think the fact that paid that attention to my fuelling made the difference.

“I decided to ‘go long,’ saw my moment at around 25/30 K to go and went for it – I finished solo in Oudenaarde with 49 seconds in hand.”

Eddie Dunbar
Eddie enjoys his solo victory. Photo©Jason Joyce Ghijs

Does the parcours mirror the Elite races?

“Oh yes – all the same climbs but over a lesser distance of 168 kilometres, the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Muur van Geraardsbergen…”

What was the toughest moment of the day?

“I felt good the whole day but there was a difficult moment on the Paterberg wall where I was forced to unclip and it took a bit of time to get going again.”

Tell us about your bike set up.

“I left that to the team mechanic and to Kurt Bogaerts my manager, he’s Belgian and knows what he’s doing for a race like this – Axeon is a US team and they don’t have many cobbles there !

“Kurt had four bars of pressure in my tyres and that was spot on, I found it easy when riding over the cobbles.”

You rode a nice Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux stage race coming in to the Ronde?

“Yeah, I was second overall and second in the TT; it was a good race for Axeon-Hagens Berman I had a teammate in yellow for two days so yes, it was a good race for us, even though I was disappointed not to win overall.

“I took a few days off after it to recover.”

Is it true that Eddy Merckx recommended you to Axel for the Axeon team?

“Yeah, Eddy saw me riding in a Nations Cup (UCi season long competition for juniors, ed.) when he was in the car behind the break – I was away solo, gained eight minutes but got brought back.

“On the strength of what he saw he mentioned my name to Axel.”

[Axeon-Hagens Berman was founded and is managed by Eddy Merckx’s son, Axel, ed.]

Eddie Dunbar
Eddie didn’t mind missing out on a Guinness to celebrate. Photo©Jason Joyce Ghijs

You were with the British NFTO team before Axeon, what’s the difference in mentalities GB to US?

“The training is pretty much the same but Axeon is pretty cosmopolitan with riders from Columbia, Australia, Portugal as well as the US and England whilst NFTO was very much a British squad.

“Axeon is a development team so we’re all pretty young whilst NFTO had riders of all ages – but they’re both good teams to be on.”

How are you settling in to the US lifestyle?

“Everyone asks me that!

“But I don’t actually live in the States, I’m still in Cork, I fly into camps and races as necessary.

“It’s a great atmosphere on the team, we work hard in training but it’s relaxed after and we have good banter.

“The programme is good too, with plenty of recovery time.”

Tinkoff gave you a trial, didn’t they?

“I was invited to one of their camps in 2015 and spent a week there – I learned a lot and it was good to see how a big pro team operates.

“The camp was for guys not doing the Tour de France, prepping for the Eneco Tour and Vuelta.”

We hear tell there’s an Irish bookie already offering odds on you winning the Tour de France?

“Yeah – but I don’t pay too much attention to that stuff!”

Describe yourself as a rider.

“If someone had said to me that I was capable of winning Flanders I’d have said; ‘no!’

“But I can get over the hills, I can handle the cobbles and I ride a decent time trial – even though I don’t particularly like them – so I guess I’m pretty ‘all round.’

“My long term desire is to be a GC rider, I like stage races.”

Eddie Dunbar
Eddie sees his future in stage racing. Photo©Jason Joyce Ghijs

What’s next?

“I have the U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege (where Dunbar would finish 72nd ed.) then a bit of rest, we have a stage race in May leading up to a ride in the Baby Giro from June 9th to 15th I think.

“I’ll take another break at the end of June but really the goal is to do as much as I can for the team.”

And finally, did you get hold of a Guinness to celebrate your Flanders win?

“No, but we had a glass of champagne – I’m not sure about having a Guinness here, it wouldn’t be like having one back home!”

With thanks to Eddie and Sean, we don’t think it’ll be too long before we’re speaking to young Mr. Dunbar again.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Luke Davison – Loving the Belgian Style

VeloVeritas & Co. always tries to keep an eye on what’s happening in the Heartland of Flanders. If it’s not Vik, then it’s Dave who tips us of about who’s burning up the kermises – the name of 23 year-old Australian Luke Davison caught his eye with back to back kermis wins.

Mark Stewart – Two Golds Mean a Very Successful British Track Championships

Last year it was the British points race jersey which Mark Stewart came away from the National Track Championships with; this year he was runner-up in the event – but he did win the scratch race and was in the winning team pursuit squad - so not a bad old ‘British’ for the Dundee man.

The VV View: Scotland’s Young Turks

As the sleeping beast that is the 2020 cycling season stirs after it’s long snooze, we thought it would be good to look at how Scotland’s ‘Young Turks’ spent lock down and what their plans are for the rest of this strange year.

Callum Johnston – Inside the Baby Giro

The last time we spoke to Callum Johnston he’d just completed his first season in Italy under the tutelage of that colourful gentleman, Flavio Zappi. This year Callum has stepped up a level on squadra Zappi and was Scotland’s sole representative in the ‘Baby’ Giro d’Italia – a race which boasts on it’s role of honour names like Carlos Betancur, Danilo Di Luca, Gilberto Simoni and Marco Pantani. We caught up with Callum after his ride to get the insider story of what is, along with the Tour de L’Avenir, the biggest u23 stage race in the world.

Henrietta Colborne – Looking forward to racing in the Spanish hills

It’s not just the boys which the Rayner Fund supports, the young ladies get their opportunities. Here’s what 19 year-old Miss Henrietta Colborne from the north of England had to tell us...

Robert Hassan – Looking Forward to the Next Premier

A third place in last Sunday's Drummond Trophy alerted us to 18 year old Robert Hassan's form, so we thought we better have a word. His dad introduced him to cycling five years ago, initially mountain biking, and has mentored him ever since then, with Robert getting more into the road scene as he turned Junior a couple of years ago...

At Random

Pros & Their PowerCranks: Part II

In Part I on Tuesday, we learnt how recent Tour of Britain winner Marco Pinotti, one of Cadel's lieutenants at Silence-Lotto Dario Cioni, and English Pro winning in Belgium Matt Brammeier, discovered PowerCranks and how they got in with them during their first rides. Here in Part II, the Pros let us in on how they integrate the cranks into their daily routines, and how the cranks can greatly help with rehabilitation after an accident.

Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stages 19, 20 and 21; Kruijswijk’s Crash, and Nibali’s Resurgence

Kruijswijk's crash, would you have waited? Wee Esteban says: "I’m very sorry for the crash of Steven (Kruijswijk), unfortunately it’s a part of bike racing and he was unlucky today." Either way, it was a horrible crash - the Dutchman seemed paralysed with fear, it didn't look like he even tried to steer round that bend. Ed rounds up the last three stages roadside.

Rotterdam Six Day 2012 – Day Three

The 'Devil' had just started in Day three of the Rotterdam Six Day 2012 when I wandered down the stairs in search of bottles of water (still - no gas), and by the time I got back what should have been ‘just another race’ had become another of those episodes which remind you that as well as being glamorous, the sport is also a very dangerous one.

The VV View: Lefevere’s Comments, UCI and Gravel Bikes, and more…

It’s a while since we had a rant so we discuss Patrick Lefevere's recent comments, what exactly is 'Project GO'?, the UCI getting it's claws on gravel biking, and John Purser fondly remembers Norman Hill.

Le Tour de France – Day 5: Stage 17, Embrun to L’Alpe D’Huez

Ola! Wee bit Spanish there in honour of Carlos, a great ride-one that puts him up with the legends. But?... Is it enough to win him the 2008 Tour de France? We'll find out on Saturday, in the chrono; Cadel has to be the favourite though. It's 9.00 pm and we're still in the Salle de Presse on L'Alpe D'Huez, another long one, but they all are. We spent the night in Pra Loup, a word of advice, do not visit the Club du Soleil les Bergers hotel, it's not the answer!

Erik De Vlaeminck

If you’re of this generation then Sven Nys will probably be your King of ‘crosses - but if you grew up in the 70’s then you’ll know that the true Monarch of the Mud was that stocky man of Flanders; Erik De Vlaeminck, big brother to ‘Monsieur Paris-Roubaix’ Roger De Vlaeminck. Sadly, the elder De Vlaeminck brother died today in the town where he was born, Eeklo in the heart of East Flanders.