South Africa gained a pair of new Cape Epic heroes on Sunday when Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys rode away from the field and into the hearts of the host nation, after finishing an impressive second on Stage 7 of the 2013 ABSA Cape Epic.
With a comfortable lead over their nearest rivals in the African team competition, the SCOTT Factory Racing teammates decided to cast aside their ‘go with caution’ strategy for the final stage, a relatively short 54km haul from Stellenbosch to the Lourensford Wind Estate in Somerset West with a total of 1500 metres of climbing.
Posing no immediate threat to the overall race lead of Jaroslav Kulhavy and Christoph Sauser, (Burry Stander-Songo), Buys and Beukes had some freedom in their favour and they took advantage of it immediately. Racing aggressively from early on, Beukes and Buys split the front pack with their fast pace before splintering the field on the race’s only major climb, a steep, rough nine kilometre ascent.
“The stage started off quite fast. Then, when the pace began to ease, Matthys pushed to the front and set the pace for a while and the guys started dropping off. Once we got onto the main climb there were even fewer riders in the front so we took turns to push it hard. After a while I looked back and saw only the Merida guys with us. Then we were motivated to keep it going,” explained Buys.
“We never really pushed to our limits at all during the race and we both felt good at the start today, so we decided to give the stage win a go. Having live TV coverage definitely motivated us because we knew it was a good way to reward our sponsors and supporters,” smiled Beukes.
Buys and Beukes had escaped up the steep ascent with former World Champion, Jose Hermida (ESP) and Rudi van Houts (NED) of the Multivan Merida team. The quartet worked together to increase their lead over the rest of the field, setting the stage up for an exciting sprint finish.
Buys was first into the final left-hand turn and over the finish line, but Beukes was unable to come around the Merida riders to secure the stage win. The stage result is measured by the second team member’s position over the finish line, which made Hermida and Van Houts the winners.
“We had planned for me to go into the last turn first so that Phil, who is a better sprinter, could do the jostling. But all four of us went off course and into the bush with about 500 metres to go and had to turn around and get back onto the route. I was the last to get back on the course and it messed up our plan. But we’re still very happy with a second podium place on a Cape Epic stage,” said Beukes.
Buys and Beukes finished the 698km, eight-day race in sixth place overall. They were also awarded the final prize for being the first African team to finish. This came with a new trophy, the Burry Stander Memorial trophy, which was presented to them by Stander’s wife, Cherise Stander.
“I’d like to thank SCOTT Sports Africa for believing in us and giving us this opportunity. This result has been a huge lift for both Matthys and I. We have learned a lot during this race about the importance of patience and planning. It’s undoubtedly been a career highlightfor both of us,” said Buys.