Although Gibbons got the chance to taste the highest level of racing during the latter part of 2016 when he was placed as a trainee or stagiaire into the top level, the UCI 2.HC Tour of Dubai will be his first start as a Neo-Pro. What is a neo-professional? It is a term used for anyone under the ages of 25 who is competing in their first year or second year as a contracted professional in the top level.
So how did this young man from Johannesburg end up in the top echelon of professional cycling?
As with a lot of kids Ryan was led into cycling by his parent’s example, riding Cross Country and Marathon Mountain biking. His parents had completed the Cape Epic when he was very young. When he was 12 in his words “I did all right in a 20 kilometer race and thought this was cool” but as a teenager he then he moved onto the road as he felt the mountain bike scene would limit his development and career.
Ryan was picked up by the WCC Africa (MTN Qhubeka feeder team) as a 1st year Under 23 having ridden for the local Mr. Price team prior to that and then moving up through the ranks to the Dimension Data Continental team in 2016. He now has the great pleasure and security of a top level contract for 2017 and 2018 with Dimension Data World Tour Team.
So we asked Ryan if there is anything that is making him nervous looking forward into this season?
“I have never done a race with significant climbing but I am looking forward to Tour of Romandie in Switzerland in April which is on my provisional calendar for this season. There is always the possibility of bad weather, it is a race that Froome normally uses to start his Tour de France campaign and I am nervous to see how I climb against the best in the world. I know that I am not competing to win but I am expected to do a job and do it well”
What else makes his nervous, being part of Mark Cavendish’s lead out train in Ryan’s words “I don’t wants to stuff that up! I know I am young and learning but that is something I must get right even at a small race”
Next after Tour of Dubai it is back to South Africa for the SA National Championships in early February where the Team Dimension Data guys must be favourite to take the victory.
“It’s going to be an interesting race, 180 kilometers on that rolling circuit, but I would be surprised that with all our strength if we didn’t win. There are some great riders in that race, Nolan Hoffman for example on his home track, Brendan Davids, Willie Smit and Clint Hendriks from RoadCover and of course Daryl Impey and Louis Meintjes in the mix, but we effectively have eight strong riders to work with”
The Tour of Dubai is being shown live each day on DSTV Supersport from Tuesday at 11h30.