Historic Tour de Langkawi hat trick for Dimension Data

Youcef Reguigui got the ball rolling for Dimension Data at Malaysia's Tour de Langkawi in 2015 when the Algerian won the overall. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg continued the team's momentum last year as he claimed the yellow jersey.

In 2017, it was first-year neo pro Ryan Gibbons delivering the hat trick 'ball' to seal a historic overall victory for the team. The 22-year-old ensured that for the first time in the race's 22-year history, a team won the overall title in three consecutive editions.

However, Gibbons cut a despondent figure waiting for the podium celebrations, angry to have missed out on adding to his second stage win of the race.

"I am sorry for being sullen now but I'll get over it in a few minutes," Gibbons said after he finished fourth to stage winner Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare).

It wasn't long before the smile that had adorned Gibbons face all week returned, as he described the emotion of claiming the overall victory in just his second stage with the team.

"Getting a stage victory, getting a tour victory is a perfect start. It is a dream start," he said. "Moving forward, I think the team will have more confidence in me. I will have more confidence in myself, so this is the perfect start for me and I really look forward to the year ahead."

All week, Gibbons has been quick to praise his teammates for their dedication to the cause - somewhat bewildered by their commitment considering his inexperience in the pro ranks.

"I am a neo-pro and some of the guys have been riding for nine years, and to commit to me was special," he said, dedicating his victory to his teammates, girlfriend and family for their support

Gibbons also extended his praise to compatriot and former professional Robbie Hunter. He explained that the winner of stages in all three Grand Tours - and also a winner the sprint classification at the Tour de Langkawi - played a crucial role in boosting his self-confidence and belief.

"He's been talking to me every day…he has a lot of faith in me as well… from 2014 he has believed I can do a lot," said Gibbons. "He's been pushing me and motivating me, which has been great and since day three even he believed I could win the tour, and so it was good to have his belief in me to have that support."

Dimension Data director Oli Cookson explained to Cyclingnews the significance of the victory for African cycling and Gibbons.

"The two stages that we won with Ryan and Mekseb, we won with emerging African talent from two different countries, South Africa and Eritrea. There is a whole pool of talent there," Cookson said. "Adrien [Niyonshuti], who has been doing a lot of the workload with Jacques, a Rwandan and an African, it is exactly what this team is about. It has been a very good week for African cycling and Qhubeka as well because we ride for a cause."

Adding to the pressure as two-time defending champions, Dimension Data were also the single WorldTour team in the race. While Cookson was quick to praise the team's result, he also paid tribute to the performance of his riders across the week in controlling the race completing the task at hand.

"Take Ryan out, that's five guys. Adrien, we've been looking at it and it's his biggest workload in the last two years, so he never wants to come to a race with me again. The team rode to the dedicated cause each day and I am very proud of them and happy."

With the victory, the pressure is off for Gibbons, who hopes that Langkawi will simply propel him onto bigger and better things.

"I am very ambitious and hungry. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to win more," said a far-from-sullen Gibbons as the victory continued to sink in. "I don"t have a ceiling right now. I want to achieve as much as I can and, hopefully, this is just the beginning."

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