In 2014 Philip Buys thrilled South African audiences buy winning two stages of the Absa Cape Epic with the then Cross Country World Champion Nino Schurter. On the final stage the South African/Swiss combination worked to help their Scott Factory Racing teammates Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns take the much sought-after win of the Grand Finale.
The 2015 edition takes place from 15 to 22 March, and will once again take 1 200 riders through some of the Western Cape’s most unspoilt territory. The Untamed African stage race starts with a prologue on Table Mountain, starting from the University of Cape Town, and finish eight days later at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville.
This year Buys and Beukes have teamed up to form what might be the strongest South African combination at the event. They have raced together before – in 2013 when they finished sixth overall while wearing the Absa African special jersey (for the first all-African team). Buys said that they would be aiming to finish in the top three overall: “A podium finish will be our primary goal, and I’m sure the Absa African jersey will be on our shoulders if we are in that podium position.”
Beukes added: “We (Scott) have been the top South African team over the last two years and we realise it’s time we set our sights on the overall. We’ve been training like we are going for the win, but come race day we know we perform better when we focus on ourselves and just enjoy the race. Philip and I race really well together as a team, we both come from a cross country background so we are both technically proficient riders, which is very important in the Absa Cape Epic. This means that we ride smoothly over the rough stuff, which cuts down the risk of mechanicals dramatically,” he added.
Buys is the reigning African cross country champion while Beukes was the South African champion in the same discipline in 2010.
Buys said they had not been training together much recently “but we have raced a lot of stage races together in the past – we know each other well and form a good combination on the bike”. He predicted that the Team RECM pairing of Erik Kleinhans and Nico Bell would be challengers for the African jersey, “but our main focus will be to get an overall podium finish”.
Asked about the importance of the team dynamic in there Absa Cape Epic, Buys said it was a “vital part of stage racing”. “Individually Matthys and I are not always the fastest in a marathon race, but as a combination in stage races we have proven that we have our team dynamics in order and we race fast together as a team.” “Its really important to get along well with your partner and team mates,” said Beukes. “We get quite tired during the event, but when you’re spending time with good friends – sharing jokes and laughter – it lifts the mood and motivates everyone in your camp.”
They will be riding 29er SCOTT Spark RC900s in 2015. “In the previous two editions of the race we had success on both 29er and 27.5 inch bikes, so it was a bit tricky to make the call, but we know the 29er really well and decided to go with that,”explained Beukes. “The bike is ultra-smooth and with its Twinlock suspension control it’s just a perfect bike for the Absa Cape Epic.”
Both paid tribute to the role of the Absa Cape Epic in fostering mountain biking: “Out of all the events I have done, the Absa Cape Epic is definitely the international benchmark for mountain biking events,” said Buys. “It gives local riders the rare opportunity to get international exposure and prove themselves to the world. It brings the international mountain biking community to South Africa.” Beukes added: “The Absa Cape Epic is the most prestigious mountain bike stage race in the world. It has a massive worldwide following both in media and public, so for us this is one of the bigger objectives of the season.”
Meerendal Wine Estate will host the finish of the race and the Grand Finale celebrations for the very first time on 22 March 2015. The Grand Finale will kick off with live entertainment, a Farmer’s Market, delectable food and wine as well as glorious scenery. Dedicated vantage points will be accessible to the general public, so that all may have a piece of the mountain biking action.