While disappointed to be missing out on a title defence opportunity, Gibbons is relishing the chance to take on the world’s best in some of Europe’s finest road races having been snatched up by the Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental Team for the 2016 season shortly after his aQuellé Tour Durban success last year.

“It is very disappointing not to be able to be a part of this year’s Tour Durban, especially having won last year!” explained Gibbons. “I love that race and it is always one of my favourites on the calendar.”

“Despite there being some great races here in South Africa like the Tour Durban, it is everyone’s ultimate goal to race overseas and I’m very excited about the next six months,” he added.

ccs-62657-0-25687100-1458758869.jpg2015 aQuellé Tour Durban winner Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data Continental) won't back to defend his title this year as he tackles an exciting six month racing stint in Europe, a trip he attributes greatly to his aQuellé Tour Durban success twelve months ago. Anthony Fitzhenry/ Gameplan Media
Gibbons, who departs for the Northern Hemisphere on Saturday, famously etched his name onto the winners list when he edged out many of his more fancied rivals in the hotly contested end sprint of the 2015 aQuellé Tour Durban title.

Despite still being just 20 years old, the result soon saw the youngster head-hunted by the Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental Team – the feeder to the UCI World Tour registered outfit.

“Joining Dimension Data has been massive for me and my win at last year’s Tour Durban definitely played a big role in setting me up for this incredible opportunity,” said Gibbons.

“Twelve months ago I never would have imagined where cycling would take me!

“To win a high profile race like the Tour Durban really helped me gain confidence and belief in my own ability though and to win an end sprint like that also helped me prove to sponsors and teams that I can cope with the pressures that come with that sort of racing scenario.”

While Gibbons expects to be joined by much of his Dimension Data team mates for the duration of his European adventure, that includes assignments such as the Coppi e Bartali in Italy and the Under-23 equivalent of the Tour of Flanders in Belgium, he is hopeful two of his Dimension Data Continental team mates will tackle this year’s Tour Durban in his absence.

“Nic Dlamini, who is a very good rider, and Bonaventure (Uwizeyimana) – our rider from Rwanda – may possibly be around to race Tour Durban for us,” speculated Gibbons.

Normal entries can be submitted online at www.cycleevents.co.za/road-events/aquelle-tour-durban-2016/ until 22h00 on 11 April, after which late entries will be taken at registration at Suncoast Casino & Entertainment World from 10h00-17h00 on Friday, 22 and Saturday, 23 April. More information can be found at www.tourdurban.co.za