South Africans Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys (SCOTT Factory Racing) finished fourth overall on Saturday’s Stage 6 of the 2013 ABSA Cape Epic and in the process tightened their grip on the African Team competition leader’s jerseys with one day of the race remaining.
Brimming with humility, the pair of tall South Africans adopted their standard conservative strategy for the 99km stage from Wellington to Stellenbosch, which included 2950 metres of vertical ascent.
Wearing the ABSA African Team leader’s jerseys, Buys and Beukes inadvertently spent some time at the front of the race with the Bulls 2 (Karl Platt and Urs Huber) and Burry Stander-Songo (Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy) teams, who resumed their intense battle for the Yellow Jersey on the race’s first major climb. The South Africans then dropped back into the second group for the remainder of the stage.
“The stage wasn’t as tough as we were expecting. There were some steep climbs, but we felt like it was over so quickly,” said Buekes. “We had a very smooth ride. I think the little bit of rain before made the trails less sketchy and faster.”
Buys and Beukes clocked a time of 04hr 36min 42sec, which was 6:25 down on stage winners and overall leaders Sauser and Kulhavy, but just over five minutes faster than the Cannondale Factory Racing team of Marco Fontana and Manuel Fumic. That resulted in a narrowing of the gap between sixth (Buys and Beukes) and fifth (Fontana and Fumic) on the General Classification to 4:59.
“It’s nice to close in on fifth place, but tomorrow’s stage is so short and it suits Fontana and Fumic perfectly. I think we’ll just stay focussed on retaining our lead in the African Jersey competition,” said Buys, adding they’re feeling good ahead of Sunday’s finale.
“On that first big climb I lost sight of Matthys for a bit and next thing I knew he was up front with the Bulls 1 and Burry Stander-Songo. I decided it was too early to go hard so I rode up to the front group and told him we need to be more conservative, so we dropped back a bit and rode with the second group. We pushed it in the last 15 kays though because we still felt good,” said Buys
“I think we’ve got a bit left in the tank for tomorrow. Matthys has been eager to let loose this whole week and I’ve had to remind him it’s a week-long race. But it ends tomorrow and it would be good to end off knowing we’ve given it our best shot,” smiled Buys.
“I think on today’s stage, Phil and Matthys showed their potential to challenge for the overall win in the Cape Epic in the future,” said Brandon Els of SCOTT Sports Africa. “This is Matthys’s first Epic and Phil’s first Epic with professional team support. Regardless of what the last stage holds, they’ve made an impression and showed they’ve got world-classstage racing ability.”