The 2010 South African Under 23 national cross country champion Philip Buys will be teaming up with good friend and Namibian cross country champion Marc Bassingthwaighte for the eighth edition of the Absa Cape Epic, taking place from March 27 to April 3. With an impressive first place in the Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Mountain Bike Challenge as well as the Emperors Palace Mountain Bike Challenge in 2011, Buys is fully prepared for his third Cape Epic.
Durban-born Buys is back for more this year owing to his past enjoyment of the race. "It's a great opportunity to ride and mingle among the world's best riders, and then you realise what the sport is all about. Both Marc and I have more or less the same goals for the Cape Epic and the rest of the year," said Buys.
"Philip and I are good friends and we're like-minded, as well as focused on the same goals so we prepare similarly. We are both win hungry and together we want to try to at least win a stage," said Bassingthwaighte.
Buys, 22, known in the cycling community as a man who is not happy with second place, has completed an impressive seven races in 2011 already including the Cape Argus Mountain Bike Challenge, The Emperors Palace Mountain Bike Challenge, MTN Sabie Ultra Marathon, MTN Clarens Ultra Marathon, MTN Attakwas Ultra Marathon, MTN Barberton Ultra Marathon and the UCI African Cross Country Championships. His strong point when it comes to mountain biking is his technical riding.
Bassingthwaighte, a regular on the podium for top three finishes in cross country races, said their focus for the 2011 Cape Epic is not much different. "We train to race cross country so our interest is not so much in the long distance or overall win. We'd like to select a shorter stage and go for a stage win. We both have shown that we can hold onto the wheels of top riders in past races this year already." Bassingthwaighte participated in the Common Wealth Games as a member of the Namibian team in both 2002 and 2006.
The cycling duo trains together about twice a week. "We're both based in Pretoria at the moment and ride for the same professional team, so we do train together occasionally, but mainly follow our own structured training plan," Bassingthwaighte said.
"My training is more focussed on cross country racing, so it's mostly power and speed training. I did some longer rides, but not much over 5.5 hours. We have a supplement sponsor, so they help us a lot with our diets," Buys said.
Buys explained that one of the keys to success in the Cape Epic is proper nutrition. "Prepare for the race! Prepare your body and have reliable equipment. Also, eat as much as you possibly can before, during and after the race. Try to eat your entry's worth of food and have lots of fluids. Have a recovery drink within the first 30 minutes of a stage completion. Enjoy riding, the rest will come by itself... only do the race if you are 110 percent ready for it. This race can make or break your career!"
Bassingthwaighte suggested pacing was also important, especially in the early stages. "Have fun and don't race for the 349th place, check the scenery and buy lots of chamois cream."
Bassingthwaighte shared some words of wisdom he's learned in his career. "Cycling never gets easier, you just go faster. So if you really want to achieve anything in sport, you have to work hard all the time, not just some of the time". He's hoping to become fast enough to meet his goal for 2011 - a top 20 at a World Cup - and if possible, at the opening Pietermaritzburg round.
Buys, who also enjoys guitar playing, enduro motorbike riding, bow hunting, photography, RC chopper flying, fishing and rock climbing, is studying at UNISA. His goal in 2011 is to make a top 30 placing at the cross country world championships and to qualify to represent South Africa at the Olympics. "To add to that, I would like to win a few of the South African cross country races and pass all (two) of my subjects that I have registered for at UNISA," he said.