He finished fourth of the conclusive stage in Putrajaya won by Travis McCabe who made it two for Unitedhealthcare after he took stage 2 and regained the points competition as well, throughout the intermediate sprints as he won all three of them.
“We wanted to race hard again today”, McCabe declared. “Typically when the race is hard and there are a few climbs, we can get rid of some heavy sprinters. The sprint came down to the last corner and I had Greg Henderson putting me in perfect position and I jumped at about 300 metres to go. Coming from doing the same job in the WorldTour, he makes my life so much easier! Pretty much all I have to do is to put my hands up. All the guys allowed me to get this win. We had a double goal as we really wanted [Daniel] Jaramillo to take the time bonuses to jump on the podium. He’s got a good kick. So I was not looking at the sprint jersey, I was more looking at the stage win.”
“This was my first time here. I’ll remember the beautiful landscapes of Malaysia. The people were fantastic. That was awesome to see so many people out there cheering us on. I couldn’t ask for a better race to start off the season. I’m really happy that I came and we’ll be back next year.”
“Before coming to Malaysia, I didn’t think I’d be sitting here with the yellow jersey at the end”, said Gibbons who learned “jesi kuning” in bahasa Malaysia during his six days in the lead of LTdL. “The team had a lot of faith in me but to have responsibility to lead in the second race of my first year as a pro, but I couldn’t have imagined the dream coming true this week. It’s been stressful, even having the yellow jersey, being on good form and believing in myself.”
“On the second climb, IsoWhey attacked. But I had Jacques [Janse van Rensburg], our road captain, with me the whole time. He told me to relax and not too worry although I could have gone harder for the intermediate sprints. A group of sixteen riders got fifteen seconds ahead of us in the main climb but we caught them very quickly. After that I knew we should have the jersey for good but this is cycling, anything can happen, a crash or a mechanical. Even going into the last sprint, I touched wheel with my team-mates in a corner.”
“It was a goal to win the last stage as well. I’m disappointed not to have made it but in the last curve I was maybe where I shouldn’t. I was following Pippo [Pozzato] and [Alberto] Cecchin. When I came out, it was way too late. There were five riders up the road. I was able to catch two of them but I was glad to stay up and win yellow and teal.”
Gibbons was the second South African to win the points competition after his mentor Robert Hunter fifteen years ago. “He was the first South African to win a stage in all three Grand Tours”, he continued.
“He’s definitely a role model. I see myself as a very similar rider to him. He was a sprinter but also someone who could go well in small climbs and do all right in time trial. He’s the one who put cycling on the map in South Africa. I do look up to him. He inspired many South Africans.”
“It’s really special to follow his footsteps, also here in Malaysia. If I do half of what he achieved, it would be a successful career for me. He’s been talking to me every day during Le Tour de Langkawi. He has a lot of faith in me as well. Since 2004, he’s believed that I can do a lot. He’s been motivating me this week, which is great. From day 3, he believed I could win the Tour. His support really helped.”
“I’m really ambitious and I’m very hungry”, Gibbons concluded. “I’d be a liar if I’d say I don’t want to win more. It’s been a perfect start. I have to keep on learning. I don’t want to set myself goals that I can’t achieve. Hopefully this is just the beginning. It was my first time in this position. “
“I’ve learned that with winning come the press, the media, the fans… I had never experienced a team work like that. I also learned a lot about sprinting. I’ve only won a stage, I’ve been second, third, fourth and fifth. I don’t look at those as seven losses. I look at them as seven learning experiences. I know what not to do now. I’m grateful for the lesson I can take from my Malaysian experience. It was my first time here. I’ve not enjoyed just the winning but the support from the people, the different cultures, the different foods, the weather that is similar to some parts of South Africa on the coast so I can handle it. It’s been so welcoming, I’d like to come back.”