Hiberno-watch, May-June 2019: Dunbar steals the show

KONM is an Irish blog about cycling. There are some Irish cyclists doing well on the World Tour and beyond. It makes a bit of sense for KONM to write about how they’re getting on.

EDDIE DUNBAR (TEAM INEOS)

Well, it’s official: Eddie Dunbar has arrived.

Early in May, he caught the eye in a big way at the Tour de Yorkshire, where he finished 3rd in GC and went toe-to-toe with Greg Van Avermaet and overall winner Chris Lawless for the right to win stage 4. Dunbar looked fearsome on the attack, and earned a podium for both stage and race.

It was a performance that set metaphorical tongues metaphorically wagging, yet it proved to be merely a taster for what was to come. Two weeks after Yorkshire, Dunbar earned another 3rd in a stage, this time in the Giro d’Italia.

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In truth, he might have won it had he not been caught behind slower climbers on the narrow, cobbled final hill and been forced to bridge over to two riders who’d got away. That effort surely cost him in the last kilometre, but it was an eye-catching ride nevertheless, and Dunbar went on to finish a very creditable 22nd in GC on his first grand tour.

He wasn’t done there, and once again mixed it with some of the World Tour’s luminaries at the Route d’Occitanie. On the first stage, he was beaten to the line only by world champion Alejandro Valverde, and held on to finish 5th in GC.

The 22-year-old from Kanturk in County Cork has made a big impact. Dare we say it, but are we looking at Ireland’s first genuine grand tour contender for a long time?

SAM BENNETT (BORA-hansgrohe)

In June, Bennett was, again, on form. After watching Pascal Ackermann, selected ahead of him for the Giro, tear it up in the Corsa Rosa, the Irishman will have been keen to reiterate his class at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Which is pretty much what he did, winning stage 3 in a bunch sprint before narrowly losing out to Wout Van Aert – no shame there – in the slightly lumpier fifth stage to Voiron. Those results were enough to earn him 5th in the points classification – not bad in a race that was more favourable to the puncheurs and rouleurs.

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According to PCS, we won’t see him again until August, but the next few weeks will be interesting for Bennett, with his departure from BORA-hansgrohe expected to be confirmed shortly. Hopefully he finds a team that puts him front and centre.

RYAN MULLEN (TREK-SEGAFREDO)

May and June were pretty eventful months for Mullen, capped off by his recent success at the Irish national ITT championships, where he retained his title despite his bike going missing in transit.

That result came a matter of days after an impressive showing at the European Games in Minsk, where he notched a tidy 4th place against the clock in a test won by Team Ineos powerhouse Vasil Kiryienka.

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Earlier in June, Mullen finished strongly in the Baloise Belgium Tour, blasting to 5th in the ITT. He was beaten only by Tim Wellens, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Victor Campenaerts and Remco Evenepoel.

Mullen’s reputation as an elite TT rider continues to grow.

DAN MARTIN (UAE-TEAM EMIRATES)

Martin’s only race in May or June was the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he rolled into a solid 8th place in GC.

Significantly, he was right up there with the favourites after the selection on the tough seventh stage from Saint-Genix-les-Villages to Pipay, finishing 5th and edging out Adam Yates and Romain Bardet in the process.

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This bodes well for Martin’s upcoming attempt at the Tour, where he’s likely to be hunting stages for his team.

NICOLAS ROCHE (TEAM SUNWEB)

June was an intriguing month for Roche, who will have been delighted to nab a top 10 in GC at the Tour de Suisse.

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It was a good showing from the Sunweb rider, who starts at the TDF in a week’s time. He will likely end up in the service of the team’s post-Dumoulin default GC hopeful Wilco Kelderman, but it’s nice to see Roche looking strong.

CONOR DUNNE (ISRAEL CYCLING ACADEMY)

KONM was ecstatic to see Conor romping to a top 20 finish on stage 12 of the Giro (yes, the same one on which Eddie Dunbar claimed 3rd).

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Dunne has worked his arse off for the ICA team this year, and KONM judges a grand tour top 20 stage finish as just reward for a man who’s fast becoming one of the peloton’s most high-profile domestiques.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

Michael O’Loughlin (Team Wiggins-Le Col) finished a creditable 6th at the European Games ITT.

Robert-jon McCarthy (Canyon dhb) impressed (12th) at the Grote Prijs Marcel Kint, a race contested by big names like Bryan Coquard and Nacer Bouhanni, before taking 6th on stage 1a of the Tour de la Mirabelle.

Rory Townsend (Canyon dhb) again caught the eye, this time with some notable finishes in Belgium. He was 2nd at the Memorial Philippe Van Coningsloo and 3rd at the Heistse Pijl. The 23-year-old looks like a really promising classics rider.

Featured photo: Eddie Dunbar/Team Ineos/Twitter, edited by KONM

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