Ryan Gibbons made it through stage 7 of the Tour de Langkawi unscathed and with an increased margin in his bid for overall victory. However, it was the most stressful day yet for the 22-year-old Dimension Data rider who is starting to feel the strain of a week's racing in Malaysia.
"Not just with the riders going into the break and the aggression from the whole peloton, but also the weather and being at the final and quite a steep downhill in the final and then a corner with 500 metres to go," Gibbons told Cyclingnews of the stress levels after finishing fifth in Rembau.
It wasn't all plain sailing for Gibbons, though, as he conceded the lead in the points classification to Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Trestina), who took out the win in the pouring rain.
"I'll fight to get it back tomorrow, but I think it is on good shoulders," said Gibbons, who was far more relieved to have kept the yellow jersey ahead of Cam Bayly (IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness).
The stage was also complicated by the fact that Jacopa Mosca (Wilier Trestina) had infiltrated the day's breakaway following a chaotic opening 50km and was the virtual leader of the race. However, the first year neo-pro placed his trust in his teammates to control the race, which they did with aplomb as he described.
"It was a bit stressful, so that is why we made sure the gap never got more than 1:45," he said of the breakaway's danger. "I think at one point it might have gone to two minutes, but then we quickly got it back down to one minute and a half. We were aware of it all times and making sure that it didn't go anywhere.
"The team has been working very, very hard, but fortunately we have the jersey and that is what matters. The morale is high, everyone is looking very good and I am really so proud and grateful for them."
Gibbons has held the yellow jersey since stage 2 and has just 121km from Setiawangsa to Putrajaya to cover before he can raise his arms in triumph as the race wine, completing the historic Dimension Data Langkawi treble in just his second stage race as a professional.
"Tomorrow is the last stage, it is a short stage and I think it will be very, very aggressive, but we are ready for it. All the riders have been working very hard," he added the in race press conference. "I am so, so proud and so thankful for them and we have one more day in the legs and we are looking forward to it. We'll certainly be going for the stage. It is the last stage so there is nothing to lose."
First, though, Gibbons will have a relaxed night in Kuala Lumpur starting with a phone call to his girlfriend, South African national champion Heidi Dalton.
"I'll chat to her and maybe watch some TV," he said. "Not really get too involved with the media and not really look at too many interviews and worry about the results. Just keep a clear head and go into tomorrow with an open mind."
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