Eddie Dunbar has signed for Team Sky with immediate effect and will make his debut with the British WorldTour team at the one-day Coppa Agostoni race in northern Italy on Saturday. The Irishman was part of the now defunct Aqua Blue Sport squad, which ceased operations last month.
Dunbar has agreed a deal that will keep at the team until the end of the 2019 season. He won the under-23 Tour of Flanders last year and stepped up to Pro Continental level with Aqua Blue Sport this season.
"I’m really grateful for the opportunity I’m getting after the situation I’ve found myself in,” Dunbar said. “Sometimes a team folding is the way the sport goes. I just had to be professional about it and understand the situation. Luckily Sky came along and they offered me a block of Italian races which is good preparation for Innsbruck. It’s all fallen into place for me – and I can’t wait to get started now.”
The 21-year-old from Banteer in County Cork caught the eye with some strong performances this season, placing fourth at the Tour of Belgium and eighth overall at both the Tour de l’Avenir and the Tour de Yorkshire. He also delivered an aggressive showing at Amstel Gold Race.
"This is a great opportunity for me to spend the last few weeks of the season with a team I’ll be riding for next year. It will make the transition a lot easier,” Dunbar said of his forthcoming schedule with Team Sky in the run-up to the World Championships in Innsbruck.
“It’s really helpful to have this opportunity to familiarise myself with everything, especially the riders and the staff, ahead of next season.”
Dunbar started racing with the Kanturk club as a teenager and highlighted his potential by winning the Irish junior championship and the Junior Tour of Wales in 2014. After spending the 2015 season with British squad NFTO, he moved to Axeon Hagens Berman in 2016.
Dunbar’s fine 2017 campaign was cut short by the effects of a concussion sustained in a crash at the under-23 Giro d’Italia, but he returned to action in the colours of Aqua Blue Sport this season. Following the disbandment of the team, Team Sky swooped in to secure his services.
“Eddie is a talented young rider and we’re delighted he’s agreed to join us,” said Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford. "Obviously the circumstances, with Aqua Blue folding, aren’t ideal for anyone at the Team, or the sport in general. You never like to see teams go through something like that. But we’re pleased to be able to offer Eddie an immediate route back in with Team Sky.”