Olympian Philip Buys (Scott Factory) is out to prove a point at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at the Cascades MTB Park in South Africa starting on August 26. He is eager to ensure that his performance does justice to the late Burry Stander.
The 24-year-old Buys recently raced the World Cup in Andorra. He'll continue preparations for Worlds at a training camp in Cape Town and then will head to Pietermaritzburg a week before the Worlds.
For Durban-born Buys, who won the Cycling South Africa national mountain bike series title, the 2013 cross country world championships is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I will never get a chance to compete in a world cross country champs on home soil, and racing on a track that I know well, so I want to take full advantage of this opportunity," said Buys.
"Every track is difficult in its own way, but the Cascades track seems to suit my style. I race it at every opportunity, and the more you race it the more comfortable you feel on it," he said.
Since the London Olympic Games, Buys has steadily climbed up the UCI rankings, and now finds himself ranked around 20th in the world, bringing with it preferential seedings at major international races.
"It's quite different! When you start at the front everyone seems kinds shaky, while when you are seeded 70th and some way back, you have five seconds or so before you even cross the start line," he said.
Illness hampered his early season World Cup campaign, but he managed a podium in one of the eliminator races. That has helped focus his training and preparations for the world champs.
"I've got the power - I know that and the eliminator proves that - now I am working on my fitness. Since the Cape Epic, I have been focusing more on training and recovery and actually racing less."
With a top 20 seeding, Buys is looking to finish the world champs with a top-15 or top-10 result, and says he is driven in a significant way by his desire to sustain the legacy of the late Burry Stander, who was killed when hit by a taxi while training in January.
"Burry did so much for this sport in South Africa. He set the standard and proved that as a South African you have no excuses not to beat the best in the world," said Buys.
"With Burry's passing early in 2013, the responsibility shifts to us to uphold his standards, and to go further and to take his achievements and go beyond that. That is a huge and positive motivation for me now," he said.
Buys will also carry forward his experiences at the Olympics as he seeks to make the most of the high profile and high pressure opportunities in the future.
"As big as the Olympics were for me, I learnt a lot from that experience. I attach the same level of importance to these world champs, and I know a lot more about what I have to do to perform at that level now. For me, representing my country is a huge honour," he said.
Buys has prioritised the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and wants to wring full value out of the opportunity to race in front of his hometown fans and supporters.
"Travelling is always difficult. Your fitness levels drop and you can get sick travelling, so having this event at home is such a great opportunity. I know and like the course, and it will just take a few days to get it properly dialled in.
"Then it is just about controlling myself. Your energy levels tend to be high during the taper phase," he says.
For the Olympian, the home world championships will be defining, both personally and professionally as he seeks to perform for his local fans and to honor the legacy of the Stander.