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Cork pro cycling team Aqua Blue Sport sign Dunbar ahead of Grand Tour debut

Thursday, 3rd August, 2017 8:56am

Banteer man Eddie Dunbar will ride for the Irish team in 2018 after his signing was announced on Tuesday. The talented 20 year old Corkman won one of the most prestigious races for junior riders in the world this year, when he won the Ronde van Vlaanderen Beloften, the under 23 version of the Tour of Flanders.

He has long been signposted as one of the most talented Irish junior riders, so his progression to the best Irish pro cycling team makes a lot of sense.

Aqua Blue Sport faces a crucial time as it prepares, in its first season, to ride its first Grand Tour. The team is currently racing at the Vuelta a Burgos in Spain, ahead of its Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España later this month.

July has been another month of firsts for the team, as its Austrian rider Stefan Denifl won the Tour of Austria, the team’s first overall win. He captured the win with a dominant performance, winning the six stage race by 37 seconds and beating a number of World Tour teams in the process.

Also in July, at the Tour of Wallonie Adam Blythe was close to a sprint stage victory with a second place and Michel Kreder finished the race in fifth overall.

The Vuelta a España starts in the French city of Nimes with a team time trial on 19 August, a momentous day for the Cork-based team.

The 21-stage race will cover 3,297km before the finish in Madrid on 10 September. There will be five flat stages, eight hilly stages and five mountain stages. It will cross 50 summits but there will also be a chance for the team’s time trial experts with a 13.8 kilometre individual race against the clock.

Before La Vuelta crosses the start line, Aqua Blue Sport will begin the month in Spain with the 2.HC Vuelta a Burgos on August 1. The five-stage event will be a hilly and challenging race. Aqua Blue Sport will send a strong team to the event and aim for stage victories.

When Burgos ends, the team will focus on its preparations for La Vuelta with training camps for just over a week.

After the Vuelta a Burgos, the team will also take part in another beautiful race, the Arctic Tour of Norway, which starts on 10 August.

Stephen Moore, Aqua Blue Sport General Manager said the squad is very excited about its first Grand Tour.

He said: “It is incredible to think that later this month we will begin the latest stage of our journey at La Vuelta. We are ready and all that must be done now is select our strongest team. We are at the most advanced stage of preparation but before that, our focus will be on the other events at Burgos and in the Arctic.

“We will treat those races with as much importance as La Vuelta and hopefully clock up some more victories. August is looking like our most exciting month yet.”

Moore also said he was delighted to sign Eddie Dunbar, who he called an “incredible talent”.

“From the outset of this project our stated aim has always been to eventually bring the best of Irish talent to the pro ranks. It is great to add to our Irish rider line-up of Matt Brammeier, Conor Dunne and Martyn Irvine – an opportunity to sign Eddie is a huge coup for us. We all can’t wait to see him in the blue and gold of Aqua Blue Sport.”

Speaking after signing his new contract Eddie said: “It is a dream come true to ride for an Irish professional team – it is great that I am going to have a chance to be part of this project.

“I have spent three years at Continental level and I now feel that the time is right to go up a level. The programme that Aqua Blue Sport offers, the big classics, stage races and the chance of a Grand Tour, all made my decision very easy. The team offers a dedicated performance staff and this makes for a great environment. I think, with this in mind, I can continue to make progress.”

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