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Eddie Dunbar descends on today’s opening stage at Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, when the list of riders in contention was trimmed right back (Photo: Luis Angel Gomez-SCA-Cor Vos)

Eddie Dunbar now finds himself with a big chance in the general classification after a very unusual opening stage at Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (2.Pro) in Spain today.

A breakaway forged ahead, gaining nine minutes at one point, with the finale of the stage an exercise in reducing their gap sufficiently to keep the general classification in play.

That resulted in a rapid pace up and over the final climbs, with also line-outs on the flat, that reduced the field to less than 40 riders, and with some fancied climbers and strong young pros losing out.

That result, and the fact the start list was not packed with talent, means few top riders are now on the same time as Dunbar, with some minutes down and way out of contention.

This is a race where Dunbar could now aim for the final podium, though he will still have his work cut out for him considering the calibre of a number of riders who finished in the main field today, though that group is small.

Among them are: Jai Hindley and Aleksandr Vlasov of Bora-hansgrohe, Einer Rubio (Movistar Team), Felix Großschartner, Brandon McNulty and Pavel Sivakov (UAE Team Emirates) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious).

While there are others who may still spring a surprise, Dunbar – 7th in last year’s Giro – has few rivals to fear and a great chance ahead of him, along with team mate Filippo Zana.

Today four of the breakaway men stayed clear, with team mates Alessandro Tonelli and Manuele Tarozzi of VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè dropping the others in the move with 25km to go and riding to a 1-2, despite veering slightly off course in the final kilometre.

They were 1:19 ahead of the 37-rider main bunch and it is possible the two Italians might put in a general classification challenge. Today, it appeared many teams were relying on Dunbar’s Jayco AlUla to give chase.

And when they did not commit, as Michael Matthews felt unwell, the breakaway’s gap reached nine minutes around the halfway point of the 167km stage from Benicássim to Castellón.

While Jayco AlUal and UAE Team Emirates were eventually active in the chase in the final hour of racing, they had left it far too late to catch the breakaway men.

However, the pace of that chase split the field to pieces and now with four stages remaining, including a climbers’ finish to Vall d’Ebo on Saturday, Dunbar has a great chance of a big result.

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