2017 season one of learning and adaptation for Gibbons

For Ryan Gibbons, the purpose of racing is to win. As a first year neo-pro with Dimension Data, Gibbons has struggled to adapt to shift his mindset to one focused on development and growth.

A stage and overall win at the Tour de Langkawi served two purposes earlier in the season. The win lessened any pressure to perform but also whetted the appetite for the 23-year-old.

Telling Cyclingnews that "If I am not winning, I am not happy", Gibbons explained that eight months into his pro career he is "content" but still wants more from season 2017.

"I feel like am just always knocking on the door and I'd be properly gutted and disappointed if I couldn't get a result in Europe before the end of the year," Gibbons told Cyclingnews.

A highlight for Gibbons in his first year with Dimension Data was a call up to the Giro d'Italia squad. Despite late notice and the team having several other aims ahead of Gibbon's sprint ambitions, the South African recorded five top-ten results before abandoning the race after stage 15.

Beside Langkawi where Gibbons finished top five on six of the eight stages, the Giro has been his most consistent race and hinted at his potential as a Grand Tour sprinter.

"I really had good form. I was also really naive to it all and didn't know what to expect," he said of his Grand Tour debut. "The team gave me a massive opportunity and I am very grateful for that. They didn't really support me or have any faith in me in the finals. I know a lot of riders can do it by themselves but I feel like with a little bit more support and knowing the ability was there but having a bit more self-belief, I really think I could have done better. As the Giro went on, I was getting better and better. Seventh, sixth, fifth, kind of thing. So maybe if it had been two weeks longer I could have crawled up [for a win]."

Along with his Grand Tour debut, Gibbons also made his first appearance at a monument as he received a call up to Paris-Roubaix "three days before so I was really thrown in the deep end there". Although the results record a DNF against his name, Gibbons explained that along with Grand Tour sprints, he is keen to test his potential in the classics. Preferring the high-end WorldTour races as he described.

"I would say I would still like to give the classics a go with proper preparation, the right mindset and that sort of thing," said Gibbons, who also rode the sprinters classic Scheldeprijs. "I think at this stage and based on what this year has proven, I think Grand Tours would suit me more. In other races I've done subsequently, like Austria for example. It was a much lower level and ok, I didn't win there, but I was top-ten repeatedly and third on the last stage. I preferred the sprints at the Giro as it's a bit more controlled, faster speeds and I enjoyed that more. I would say that I would be looking at grand Tours more so as there is also more respect and more opportunity."

Full of confidence after his Langkawi win in March, Gibbons explained to Cyclingnews that "everything I do, maybe you don’t see it but I want to win everything, no matter what it is." Five months on from his debut professional victory and Gibbons adds he has come on in leaps and bounds since even if it isn;t reflected in in results.

"In general, I wouldn't say my power has improved but I feel like I have learnt a lot more and have more confidence. I can almost read a bunch much better. It is obviously different at each race and it takes a while to get into but I definitely feel more confident and I think I am finding my feet better and better at each race I go so. Even if the results don't show that," he said.

With a race programme that is changing "on a daily basis", Gibbons is unsure where exactly he is in action next but is clear he wants a result.

"I have had a lot of disappointment this year, but I understand where it is coming from and I also it is my first year. I am taking it as learning and development and hoping I can grow from it and hoping I can maybe get one more result to almost back myself more and prove that I am deserving of being a sprinter and getting that support and belief early on in the season and I can plan my season around that. This year I am learning how to deal with disappointments.

"I would like to be in the mix of a bunch sprint before the end of the year and not just be around sixth, seventh place. To really be in one and no matter what level it is, whether it's an Italian race in Tuscany or a WorldTour race, I want to mix it up and be competitive in a sprint before the end of the year. I would say another top three by the end of the year would be a goal."

One race that Gibbons won't be lining out at though is the World Championships later this month in Bergen, Norway. Gibbons was called up the South African U23 squad last year, but was drafted into the elite squad which proved to be a "dent in my confidence". But that is nly half the reason why Gibbons isn't keen for the September 24 event.

"I hear Worlds and I am already like, 'I am not motivated for that'. Also unfortunately at the moment, there is a lot of problems and any riders that want to go to the Worlds, it is self-funded," he said. "Not only travel but everything is self-funded. At this stage for me, it is definitely not going to happen."

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