Gibbons: ‘I’m Not Limited To Pure Sprint Stages’

Confidence continues to rise for South African Ryan Gibbons as podium in Oman leads to white jersey and potential programme change for the spring.


Aaron S. Lee |

It has been a stellar start to the season for Dimension Data sprinter Ryan Gibbons. Exactly one week since the 24-year-old Johannesburg native took silver in the national road race championships behind reigning two-time winner Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) in Tshwane, Gibbons rounded out the podium on Stage 2 of the 10th Tour of Oman (UCI 2.HC) and slipped into the ‘best young rider’ jersey in the process.

“It is always disappointing not to get the win, especially when it is so close,” explained Gibbons just before sharing the podium with stage runner-up and current race leader Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) and the day’s victor Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), who took overall in 2018.

Gibbons spoke with Bicycling South Africa prior to the start of Sunday’s stage in Muscat, and he explained that his evolution as a cyclist began after winning a stage and finishing first on general classification at Le Tour de Langkawi in 2017.

“Before that, I always considered myself just a sprinter, but being able to win GC there kind of opened my eyes,” said Gibbons. “I need to have more faith in myself and that I’m not limited to just pure sprint stages.”

Recently-appointed team sports director Hendrik Redant has already taken notice of Gibbons and believes the door to success is wide open for the potential standout, including another opportunity or two with four stages remaining in Oman.

“Ryan has a lot of opportunities,” said Redant, a two-time winner of Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne and former directeur sportif at Omega Pharma-Lotto and UnitedHealthcare. “He is a strong rider and he can go over climbs. If you get there with the first on the ‘Corkscrew’ in the Tour Down Under, [it] means you can climb a little bit. So, he should still be there to contest victories on those stages with pitchy climbs.”

Gibbons, a product of the development squad Dimension Data for Qhubeka in 2016, is entering his third full year with the South African-registered UCI WorldTour team, but this year he took a dramatic departure in his approach to training prior to the start of the season.

“I’ve actually put on weight and less training,” admitted Gibbons when asked if he had approached the season differently due to his early schedule, which included the Tour Down Under (2.UWT) and Cadel’s Race (1.UWT) last month.

“Normally I try to — just as a base — do 110 to 120 hours during December. This year, I did 90 hours. So, quite a lot less — a lot of gym work, focus work. [I] put on a bit of weight, so when I went to Australia I was actually quite nervous … but I just got stronger and stronger. So, I’m enjoying the form and hoping it lasts a bit longer.”

The change in training has seemingly paid off, with Gibbons kicking off the year with a Top 5 result (fifth) on the season opener at the TDU in Adelaide. He followed that with solid performances all week en route to third in the youth classification. Gibbons backed that up with a fourth-place finish at Cadel’s Race and his runner-up result at nationals.

“It definitely reassures me that I am capable and gives me more confidence, and also gives the team more confidence in me,” said Gibbons. “It’s definitely a positive and hopefully we can grow strength-to-strength and keep the momentum going.”

According to Gibbons, that “momentum” could swing him into an entirely new direction over the first half of the season. It’s a course change he feels could be an ideal alternative programme.

“The way the form is going and my feeling today, my whole calendar is probably going to change,” hinted Gibbons.

“Normally I would have done some of the Spring Classics, but might move more to the Ardennes Classics — very, very different kind of riding, very different field that you ride with, but probably something more up my alley.

“So, I’m actually looking forward to that.”

Aaron S. Lee is an international sports journalist for Eurosport and guest contributor to Bicycling South Africa.

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