South Africans Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes joined an exclusive club on Thursday when they finished third overall on Stage 4 of the ABSA Cape Epic. In the 10 years of its existence, only a handful of South Africans have set foot on a Cape Epic Men’s category podium; and they’re the first local riders to do so in 2013.
The SCOTT Factory Racing pair were beneficiaries of a directional error made by three teams ahead of them and were surprised to hear of their third place finish when they crossed the finish line in the town of Wellington.
“I thought I was hearing things when the race announcer said we were third. We thought we were lying in fifth place, which would have still been a good result for us. But this is a great result!” beamed Beukes.
“It was a huge surprise. We got to do the podium ceremony and sat in the post-stage press conference. That was quite cool – having to answer questions from the media. It’s the biggest podium place of my life!” remarked Buys.
The pair managed to also close the gap significantly to the African team competition leaders, compatriots Charles Keey and Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend).
“We adopted our standard race strategy – proceed with caution – and it worked out for us today. Darren and Charles went down in a crash on a sketchy early descent that we’d decided to take easy. After that, they were under pressure to chase back while we pretty much decided to enjoy the cool singletrack on the route today,” said Buys.
The pair found themselves riding with the Cannondale Factory Racing pair of Manuel Fumic, the German champion, and Marco Fontana, the Italian champion with the four teams ahead doing battle for the stage win and the overall race lead.
“We were outside the pressure zone for the last two thirds of the stage. The front four teams were in that pressure zone and that’s probably what led to them taking the wrong route. Once Fumic and Fontana left us behind about, 15km from the finish, we had to look for directional arrows ourselves. It’s a key responsibility of racing,” said Beukes.
The three teams that took the wrong turn – Bulls 1, Bulls 2 and Multivan Merida – appealed and were successful in being given an approximate time deficit for the stage based on where they were in relation to the stage winners, Burry Stander-Songo at the time of their transgression. It didn’t affect the General Classification, which saw SCOTT Factory Racing move up one place to seventh overall.
“We’re obviously pleased to close in on the African Leader’s Jersey. Three-and-a-half minutes is a small margin in a race of this distance. We won’t become obsessed by trying to reclaim it. We’ll continue with our conservative approach to the race over the next three days. Tomorrow’s stage apparently has a lot of singletrack, which we can’t wait to ride. There are some cool mountain bike trails in this part of the country,” added Buys.
Friday’s Stage 5 is a relatively short 75km leg that starts and finishes in Wellington and which climbs a total of 1 800 vertical metres. It features more singletrack than any other Cape Epic stage ever.