Ryan Gibbons arrived at the Tour Down Under as Dimension Data's seventh choice general classification candidate but, going into Sunday's final stage, he finds himself fourth on GC and leading the young rider white jersey competition.
The South African-registered team came to the 2019 WorldTour opener with a former Tour Down Under winner in Tom-Jelte Slagter, along with proven climber Ben O'Connor, and puncheur Michael Valgren in a squad with a number of options.
Speaking after the stage 5 finish in Strathalbyn on Saturday, Gibbons admitted the white jersey wasn't a complete surprise.
"We saw today that I was on the same time and I was actually only one place behind [Chris] Hamilton on countback after yesterday so I just needed to finish one place in front of him today," he said.
"It wasn't really the main goal. The main goal was the stage but it was quite a stressful final. Across the finish line, though, I couldn't see Hamilton so I knew I had it."
Gibbons' eighth-place finish today sits alongside a fifth-place finish, two 12th places and a 31st. Although the results have not made headlines, Gibbons' consistency can be commended in race with the sprint field featuring the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Merida) and stage 5 winner Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates).
Whether or not Gibbons can hold onto his lead in the young riders competition when the Tour Down Under concludes on Willunga Hill on Sundar remains to be seen, but Dimension Data will surely do their utmost to get something out of the team's first race of the year.
"In all honesty for me, it's been four missed opportunities. It's definitely a conciliation but it also comes with a little bit of pressure to try and hold it for one last stage. I never expected to be in this position, so let's try and hold it," Gibbons said.
"Realistically, Willunga is a proper climb and I'm not a climber. I came here as the seventh best GC rider on paper and so I'm just going to give it my best and the team's backing me so we'll see what I can do."
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