The opening stage of the Tour de Langkawi presented the sprinters with their first opportunity of the race and it was Scott Sunderland (IsoWhey Sports) who crossed the line first. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s fast-finishing Ryan Gibbons placed 2nd on the stage with Nicolas Marini (Nippo-Vini Fantini) rounding out the podium.
Just a short 125km stage from Kuala Bereng to Kuala Terengganu got the 2017 Tour de Langkawi underway and the mostly flat parcours meant it would be the main sprint teams who would be interested in today’s finale. Ryan Gibbons, our young South African and first year professional was our African Team’s hope for the expected mass sprint.
The early part of the stage saw a 10-rider group go clear to form the break of the day. The composition of the group up the road suited our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka squad as a number of Italian teams started to chase from the peloton. Gibbons was able to rely on the experience of his team to keep sheltered and safe in the peloton until the last moments of the stage.
With 15km to go, the breakaway had been reeled in and this is when our African Team made sure to take position near the head of affairs. A large crash took place in the bunch just 6km from the line but thanks to our African Team’s good positioning, we were unaffected. The crash did string things out before the technical finale, so when the sprint opened up, Gibbons had to come from a fair way back. He was able to overhaul all but one of the riders in front of him, finishing 2nd on the stage and placing 2nd in the overall classification too.
Ryan Gibbons – Rider
The day was really quite easy, the team babysat me from start to finish. Everyone on the team rode incredibly and they were all fully committed for me to go for the stage. Going into the final it was quite fast and the other sprinters went quite early, I thought it was a bit too early so I hesitated a bit. I went with 200 meters to go and caught all the guys except for one but I am definitely quicker than him so it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.
Oli Cookson – Sport Director
It was a good situation for us today. 10 riders from a mixture of teams made the break but none being particularly dangerous to us. The Italian teams did a lot of work today but our timing at the finish was good, moving up when we needed to. The guys rode as group and missed the crash that happened near the front but we were right there as a team for Ryan. So it was a good day, we knew how quick Ryan was but now other people do too.