Eddie Dunbar: Ireland’s next Tour winner?

Irish Cycling hasn’t had a hero since the days of Seán Kelly and Stephen Roche. The sport has undergone something of a Renaissance in the last five years with more and more people out on the roads putting down hard miles. Soccer has Robbie Keane, golf has Rory McIlroy and rugby had Brian O’Driscoll up until last season. Nicholas Roche is at the forefront of strong Irish cyclists but unless he wins a Grand Tour he will always be in the shadow of his father.

Corkman Eddie Dunbar has all the credentials of a tour rider elect. He is a frighteningly powerful, aggressive rider who is currently testing his ability with Pro team NFTO. Officially ranked the no.1 British team in 2014 there’s no better place for Dunbar to learn the trade of Continental-Tour riding.

The 18-year old starred in the junior ranks of Irish racing last year and is a two-time yellow jersey winner at the Junior Tour of Ireland and won the national time trial championship as well last year. Amongst other victories he also had overall victory at the NFTO Junior Tour of Wales.

Despite interest from the UK, Europe and the US Dunbar chose the Yorkshire based outfit to ride with this year. Already he’s been making waves particularly with a sensational performance in one of the UK’s biggest races of the year. The Chorley Grand Prix saw Dunbar lead an attack that split the breakaway from 18 men to just three. This paved the way for teammate Ian Bibby to claim the win. 28-year old Bibby was full of praise for the rookie at the end of the race.

“I looked behind and saw there were only two of us so our best chance was to get across to Eddie and really commit,” said Bibby.

“Eddie killed himself and sacrificed it for me. He’s done incredible for his first year.”

His talent is only rivalled by his ambition. Speaking to Lucca Sports Dunbar says he wouldn’t hesitate at the chance of riding in the Pro Continental or World Tour:

“I want to get to the World Tour as soon as possible. I am a very ambitious person. That’s the way I have always been so I can’t see the point in waiting if the opportunity arrives.”

Such is his talent that Paddy Power have him at a meagre 11/8 to win a Tour de France stage at any stage in his career.

Maybe Eddie Dunbar is the icon Irish Cycling needs? He certainly has the potential.

Watch this space.

Can Dopers be Considered as Greats?

Blood doping is categorically the single biggest problem in the world of professional cycling. According to some riders it has been in the sport as early as the 1900’s. With this in mind the question has to be asked; can riders who have been convicted of doping be considered as greats?

Jacques Anquetil is regarded by many as one of the greatest cyclists of all time. He won the Tour de France an incredible five times, the Giro d’Italia twice and the Vuelta a Espana once. He also won the one day classic Liege-Bastone-Liege once, the gruelling Bordeaux-Paris once and the Paris-Nice five times. The stance he took on performance enhancing drugs was controversial as he was forthcoming on the use of them and said what other riders would only utter.

The Bordeaux-Paris is one of the most difficult races of all time because of its length. At approximately 560 kilometres long it was the longest single stage race. Riders would leave Bordeaux at 2am and would take riders anywhere between 12 and 14 hours to complete. In an interview with a government official over the issue of doping Anquetil replied by saying: “Only a fool would imagine it was possible to ride the Bordeaux-Paris on just water.” In another television interview he said: “Leave me in peace; everybody takes dope.”

There is no question that Jacques Anquetil was using performance enhancing drugs, yet he is seen as one of the best cyclists ever to have graced the earth.

The case of Lance Armstrong is well documented. He profusely denied that he took performance enhancing drugs at any stage during his career. When his web of lies finally caught up with him, he was implicated in one the most elaborate cover-ups in sports history. What is the difference between the case of Armstong and Anquetil? The time-frame is certainly a factor as better drug testing practices were in place in the 2000’s. Another factor could be the stance they both took on the issue of doping, but that shouldn’t be counted as doping is an illegal practice.

These are two very different cases in which riders both achieved immortality because of their use of performance enhancing drugs, but both with polar opposite legacies. Undoubtedly Lance Armstrong will go down as the greatest villain in the history of cycling, whereas Jacques Anquetil will go down as one of the greats.

There are many more cases of riders who were convicted of doping but going on to achieve greatness. The troubled Marco Pantani is still considered one of the greatest climbers of all time. Alberto Contador will go down in the history books as the most successful rider post-millenia. Alexander Vinokourov was a serial doper but that didn’t prevent him from winning the Men’s Individual Road Race in the London Olympics. He left the Rigoberto Uran in his wake as he sprinted to success. In my mind, this is the greatest shame of them all. Uran has shown much potential and this could have been the kick-start in his fledgling career, instead he was robbed of this success.

Whatever your opinion of dopers and drug users, history suggests it remembers them as greats. They are not conveyed as pantomime villains who are booed and jeered wherever they go, rather they are embraced as heroes and kings.