The South African challenge for 2013 Cape Epic success received a significant boost when Philip Buys confirmed that he had secured compatriot and friend, Matthys Beukes, to race with him on Team Scott.
In a show of selflessness, Beukes' team, Contego, agreed to release their star marathon racer to partner with Buys for the eight-day race stage race, which is considered mountain biking's equivalent of the Tour de France.
Buys is thrilled at the prospect of teaming up with Beukes. "My plan, since I joined Scott, was to always do this year's Cape Epic. But I was prepared to skip it if I couldn't find the ideal teammate. It's a tough eight-day race against the world's best riders. You don't just pick anyone to partner with," said Buys.
"Matthys and I raced as teammates at the Sani2c three-day race a few years ago and it was apparent then that we have similar riding styles and strengths. I believe we'll be very well-matched and I look forward to racing at the highest level with him," said Buys.
Buys has completed three Cape Epics, while this will be Beukes' first appearance at the demanding race.
"None of my previous Cape Epics were super serious. I raced in a back-up team always, so the pressure was low. My best finish was 14th overall. I was also quite young. I've matured physically and mentally since then. I'm ready to give it my best shot," said Buys.
Although he's developed into a cross country specialist over the past 18 months, Buys is a strong all-arounder and has shown his ability to contest marathon and stage race podiums. Beukes on the other hand is more a marathon specialist, but a very capable cross country racer too. Their cross country racing prowess sees a high level of skill in Team Scott, which will be most beneficial on the technical sections of the race.
"Firstly, I need to thank Contego for releasing me to take up this rare opportunity," said Beukes. "It's people like this that have their riders' interests at heart and I really appreciate it," said Beukes.
"Philip and I have known each other since our early under 23 racing days and we've been friends since then. Our paths have been a little different but I look forward to them converging again for this year's Cape Epic."
Beukes and Buys have set themselves some important goals in this, the 10th anniversary of the Cape Epic.
"The African Leader's jersey is obviously a key focus for us, but we're not letting that become our primary goal," said Buys, who won the African continental championships last weekend. "Nothing is impossible and we could well find ourselves challenging for the overall race podium or stage wins, if things go well. I've never had full team support in the Cape Epic before, and I'm feeling very positive about our chances of a high overall finish."
"It's going to be new to me on many levels, but having watched the race unfold over the years, I've seen how important durability is. So we'll carefully plan our equipment to ensure we find the balance between light weight and durability," said Beukes.
"We'll take a slightly conservative approach in terms of our strategy. Things can go wrong more often when you're over-eager," said Beukes, who finished second at the MTN Barberton Classic marathon earlier this season.