The 23-year-old finished sixth overall at the Tour de la Provence earlier this month, having placed a highly-creditable fifth on the stage to Chalet Reynard. He comes into the UAE Tour as a protected rider and, with Team Ineos lacking a sprinter, the Irishman has a number of able domestiques tasked with protecting him.
"I rode well at Provence earlier this month. I felt good and recovered well throughout the week. My winter went well and today will be a good test to open up the legs for tomorrow and see where I’m at," Dunbar told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 2.
Monday's action will culminate in an uphill finish at Hatta Dam and, although sterner tests are just around the corner, on stages 3 and 5, Dunbar is well aware that every second will count on stage 2.
"Today is pretty important. Last year, the top 30 or so guys roughly had the same time, apart from the crash, so it’s important not to lose a few seconds. We’ll see how it goes.
"I don’t mind the heat. I know that coming from Ireland that might be hard to believe. I go pretty well and it doesn’t really affect me. Hopefully I’ll go well over the next few days."
While Ineos make no bones about their focus on Grand Tours, their faith in targeting three-week races often opens up opportunities for others further down the pecking order. Dunbar is a case in point, having notched up a number of top-10 GC results in 2019.
This, however, represents the first chance he has had at leading a team at a WorldTour stage race.
"Being at Ineos, a lot of riders have their focus on Grand Tours. That frees some of these races up but they’re important too and they’re part of the WorldTour. It’ll be good to have a hit-out in these races and test myself against some of the other guys."
Stages 3 and 5 culminate with summit finishes at Jebel Hafeet. Last year, the climb was used just once but, due to road works, it has been included twice this time around. The climb will undoubtedly decide this year’s race.
Dunbar, who often cuts a relaxed figure, gave his assessment of the climb just before joining his teammates on the stage ahead of the their race sign-on.
"I’ve not ridden it but I’ve watched Youtube videos. Hopefully that does it justice."
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