After a whirlwind month, Conor Dunne says that the World Championships in Innsbruck were an opportunity to end his 2018 season on his own terms. With no new contract yet for next season, it was also an opportunity for the Irish national champion to show himself one last time.
Dunne and his teammates were left in the lurch when the Aqua Blue Sport team announced it would be folding at the end of the season, and then again when the team announced it wouldn't be racing at the Tour of Britain. He had already been selected for the World Championships at that stage and set about getting himself ready for the opportunity. Though the Irish team was unable to get a result out of the day, Dunne and teammate Ryan Mullen were part of the early breakaway.
"I've kept training the whole month, I love riding my bike so I never stopped. It's just been super stressful and quite emotional as well," Dunne told Cyclingnews after abandoning the race with two laps to go. "I still haven't found a team, so the whole time I was thinking maybe this is my last race. It might be my last. It's been a tough month, and I just wanted to do this and go out fighting for myself and to not fade away after August and have it end like that. It was nice to come here and finish it off.
"It was always going to be a tough course, and me and Ryan are not climbers. We're two of the bigger riders in the bunch. As the race gets on it feels longer and longer, but after the last month, it feels nice to go out on my own terms. I knew that it would be a hard parcours for me so it was nice to be in the break, show myself and go out on my own terms. I was feeling good until I got dropped and then the lights went out pretty quickly."
Part of Dunne's preparation for the World Championships was a week-long training ride around the Alps with teammate Larry Warbasse - who is set to ride for AG2R La Mondiale next season. The plan was to go on a 'No go Tour' where they would ride the same amount of days as the Tour of Britain, and a similar distance.
"It was such a load for both of us and we decided to make something out of it and ride our bikes in our own way. It was a brilliant week," said Dunne.
With the World Championships over, Dunne begins his off-season not knowing if he'll have a ride in 2019. Dunne recently earned a degree, but with the Irish national jersey on his back, the 26-year-old is determined he will not quit cycling just yet. He believes that he's still got some good years ahead of him and hopes he can stay in at least Pro Continental level, if not above.
"I've been talking to a few teams, but it's such a tough year with so many riders looking for a contract, so I've just got to keep pushing and see if I get something. I'm still the national champion, I don't want to go out with the national jersey. Hopefully, someone can see that," he said.
"I think I'll definitely ride next year, no matter what. I'm not going to retire with the national jersey. I still really believe in myself. I think I have two good years ahead of me so I hope that I can stay Pro Conti or above. I'm going to work hard this winter and push on, I think that I can work well for a team."