The Irishman says he's grateful to Sky for signing him midway through the season after the collapse of Aqua Blue Sport

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Eddie Dunbar says he’ll be looking to capitalise on any WorldTour opportunity he can get with Team Sky in 2019, after he unexpectedly made the step up from Pro Continental level mid-way through this season.

The 22-year-old began the year as part of his home team Aqua Blue Sport, but the Irish squad abruptly folded in August due to financial difficulties. That left a 16-strong roster of riders looking for a new team for 2019, with the team’s bigger names like Larry Warbasse and Adam Blythe able to eventually secure spots in the WorldTour for next year with AG2R La Mondiale and Lotto-Soudal respectively.

While they were still forced to end their 2018 seasons early, Dunbar was lucky enough to make an unexpected fast-track to Team Sky. Since then he has been able to ride some of the Italian autumn one-day races, the Hammer Series in Hong Kong and Chinese WorldTour race, the Tour of Guangxi.

The Irishman, speaking about his move to the British team while at the Hammer Hong Kong, said it was still ‘crazy’ to think that he was able to make the move to Sky and step up to the WorldTour after the Aqua Blue collapse.

“It’s just been crazy the last few weeks,” Dunbar said. “One minute you’re in a team and then it’s gone and the next minute your in the best team in the world.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity that Sky have given me, they didn’t have to. They sped up the process to get me racing, to make the transition easier going into the team next year. I think that just shows the quality of the team they are and how much they care about riders no matter who they are, it’s nice to be part of.”

Eddie Dunbar at the 2018 Tour of Guangxi (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Like his team-mates on Aqua Blue, Dunbar was unaware about the team’s imminent demise, and only found out as he was returning home from a race. He said it was an ‘easy process’ to join Sky with both parties interested in striking a deal.

“It just happened, it was so quick. I did Tour de l’Avenir and I came back and I was on my way home and I found out the team wasn’t going to be there,” Dunbar said.

“Straight away my agent Gary McQuaid he got on everything, he was on to teams straight away and Sky was one of them and they seemed pretty interested. I was tied into a two year contract with Aqua Blue so once it came about and I was free for next year, we showed interest in Sky and they showed interest in us and when you have two parties like that it’s a very easy process.”

Dunbar has only ridden four events at cycling’s top level in his short career. He made his Ardennes debut with Aqua Blue at the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April, before riding the Tour de Suisse in June. With Sky, Dunbar is riding the year’s final WorldTour event in China, the Tour of Guangxi.

While Aqua Blue relied on invites to top level races, failing to secure a Grand Tour in 2018, Sky will have full access to every WorldTour event and Dunbar hopes to use any opportunity to gain experience against the sport’s biggest names, rather than focusing on results.

“Any opportunity I get [I want to take]. Being on a WorldTour team now that opens the door to plenty of races. It’s not like being on a Pro Conti team like Aqua Blue where you’re waiting on invites, Sky know they’re doing three Grand Tours, all the WorldTour races, so if I can do as much WorldTour racing as I can, I think at my age it’ll be good for development and any opportunities I get to race in those kind of races will be good.

“We haven’t even spoken about next year, it’s just a matter of getting used to everything and everyone, getting to know the staff, riders, how the team works, that’s the most important thing for the next few months.”