The 4th stage, and Queen stage of the Tour de Langkawi couldn’t have gone any better for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka as Mekseb Debesay won a top the Cameron Highlands. Cameron Bayley (IsoWhey Sports) was 2nd with our African Team’s race leader, Ryan Gibbons taking third on the stage and kept the overall race lead.
The 4th stage of the Tour de Langkawi was always touted as the Queen stage of this year’s race with the 30km climb up to the Cameron Highlands set to be the main decider for the overall classification. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka couldn’t have asked for a better day, controlling the peloton for the first 140km of the stage, Nic Dougall and Adrien Niyonshuti were incredible.
When it came to the final 30km climb, the experience of Jacques Janse van Rensburg helped guide Gibbons, Debesay and Ben O’Connor in the lead group. As the peloton slowly started to lose numbers, the quartet from our African Team held firm. With 5km to go, the main group was down to just 15 riders and all 4 Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were there, and in control.
The Colombian climbers in the group set a tough pace over the closing kilometers which whittled the group down further still. Gibbons would lose contact with the leaders periodically but Janse van Rensburg was on hand to drop back and pace him back to the head of the race. The most telling attack came at 1km to go when Bayley made a surge for victory. Debesay was onto him in a flash though and as a small gap opened up, Debesay was in a prime position sitting on the Australian’s wheel.
As they reached the final 150m, Debesay was able to kick around Bayley to take a fantastic victory. Today’s stage win is the first professional win for our 25-year old Eritrean. Gibbons led the main group home to take 3rd on the stage, and kept the overall race leader’s yellow jersey. O’Connor took 6th place, also a fine performance by the first year pro. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka now have 3 riders in the top 10 overall and are in 2nd place in the team competition but joint on time with IsoWhey Sports.
Mekseb Debesay – Rider
I am very happy. Today was not an easy day but for us that was very good. There were some very good riders on the final climb and they were attacking us but we did just what the team asked of us. The sprint finish was really good for me. With 1km to go the Iso rider attacked and I followed him. I was feeling comfortable and confident and right in the final I could beat him.
Ryan Gibbons – Rider
Today went perfectly for us, the team was absolutely amazing. We sat on the front all day and in the final we had 4 of us up the climb. We couldn’t have asked for anything better, Mekseb 1st, me 3rd and keeping the jersey makes us all very happy. The last climb was really hard and I was in the red the whole time. I kept getting distanced but nobody committed when attacking so fortunately, I could keep on getting back to the group, slowly but surely. Only right at the end Cam and Mekseb got away, I am happy with 3rd and to keep the jersey which we will hopefully keep right to the end now.