London Olympian and current African cross country mountain bike champion, Philip Buys, will race in 2013 as a fully sponsored member of Scott Sports Group.
The announcement to support the 24-year-old South African was made by Brandon Els, Managing Director of Scott Sports Africa, a move that allows Buys to pursue his racing career with comprehensive backing.
Buys was backed initially by Contego and then USN during 2012, a year in which he showed his potential with a 15th place finish at a round of the prestigious UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. He also won his first major title, claiming the African Continental Championship gold in Mauritius.
"It's definitely a couple of steps up the ladder for me," said Buys. "The backing of USN was essentially support until I could find something bigger, which is what the Scott contract is. It is a full sponsorship, which includes a salary, bikes, gear and support in my quest to achieve my true potential."
Buys was a regular second-place finisher to the late Burry Stander at most South African cross country races, but he closed the gap to Stander in 2012 when he made a switch to Stander's coach, Dr Jeroen Swart and was subsequently rewarded with the second berth for South Africa alongside Stander at the London Olympics.
"Burry set the pace and created a path for the rest of us to follow. He taught me so much in 2012, especially in the build-up to the Olympics," said Buys after having attended Stander's funeral on Thursday afternoon. "Were it not for Burry's ability to earn UCI points with his amazing talent, I would not have been able to compete at the Olympics."
"The best way I can honour Burry is to pursue my career and take my opportunities with the same passion and commitment that he did. He was a true professional in every way and I aim to follow that example as best I can with Scott's backing," said Buys.
Buys's primary goal for 2013 is a high finish at the UCI Cross Country World Championships, which will take place in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in September.
"A world champs in your own country is rare and special. That will be my priority this year. I will compete in the World Cup Series in Europe and North America for preparation and plan to raise my racing standard even more this year."
Because the cross country World Cup Series does not start until May this season, Buys will focus on marathons and stage races during the first third of 2013 as part of his base phase.
"I will compete in the MTN National Marathon Series, and I plan to give the Cape Epic a good go too," said Buys. "I've done three Cape Epics, and each time it was just for the experience and to finish. I feel I'm strong enough now to be competitive and would love to aim for a top 10 finish and possibly contest the Best African Team Jersey. I will have to find the right partner first though."
"In Philip, we see a committed racer with a bright future. His humility is admirable and that's part of what makes him an excellent brand ambassador," said Els. "Philip achieved well with local sponsorship backing in the last couple of years and we'd love to see him reach his potential.
Buys will open his account as a Scott team rider by competing in the Cycle Fest in Pietermaritzburg this weekend. The UCI-points graded cross country race Saturday is his priority event, where he will be one of the favourites to claim the title and valuable UCI rankings points.