Preparing for Cape Epic obviously takes huge amounts of discipline, training and preparation. But what drives this immense amount of discipline? Well at least., what is it for me…?
The night before the prologue we prayed together. We prayed for good health, performance and equipment in the race. We also prayed for an enjoyable experience.
We finished 5th and I now had a taste of the sort of suffering I was to experience over the next few days. This was only a slight idea of the the suffering that was to come.., It turned out to be far worse than I anticipated on that day.
The worst day of my life on a bicycle….ever!! I had to slow down 3 times in the stage ,because I would just start seeing fuzzy stars and almost black out. We finished 11th that day.
That night we prayed again and motivation in the camp was not very high. Weather was crap rainy as well. I was not happy with my performance at all and also not keen for the rest of the racing. My performance was humiliating…
This was going to be a wet and muddy day.., I was not happy. Nino seemed in a lighthearted spirit. He told me to relax and that there is no pressure. For him its just a training ride now.
In the first 10km I was suffering again and off the pace. At about 20km my brake pads were done and brakes were seizing up. On that day we had to change brake pads 3 times. We sort of gave up and just started cruising. All thanks to my useless legs.
We finished with Jose Hermida and Rudi van Houts. A much more chilled vibe. On this day we lost most of our time.
Woke up to a better mood in camp and better weather. I think everyone made peace with the fact that we are just here now to have fun. We had to feed into the start box from the back and we were far from starting with the front guys. No attention came our way. No pressure. The damage and humiliation has been dealt.
Now to try and enjoy it as much as possible.
A fast start again and more suffering for me. Later Nino was off the front in the lead bunch and I was just suffering in the second bunch. I think Nino thought that my race was over. So did I. No comeback from the dark place where I was. And I was fine with that…
I put in a huge effort and managed to bridge to the lead bunch. I thought that effort was definitely too deep and I would pay the price later in the stage and hit the next mother of a bonk wall. Attacks started flying one after the other and I was just dangling.
Then, the turning point in my Cape Epic!!
One stop at the feed zone and the pace eased up just enough for me to recover. I remember smiling at Nino as he stopped for a wee and I rolled on and used the opportunity to stuff my face with apples, a gel and coke.
At the next technical climb I went to the front and everyone seemed to be suffering more than what I did. Nino came up next to me and said: "You are back!" We took the lead down a very rough descend and at the bottom we had a lead of about 2 min on the rest. We then put our heads down and started pacing away from the guys with about 2 hours of racing left on wide open roads. My legs started fading a bit later. Three teams joined us and we were dropped with about 10km to go. I payed the price for my earlier deep efforts. We finished 4th. Better, but not good enough. More praying that night! Even the anti-doping people prayed with us and for us.
The mood in camp was fun. The night before we had fillet in Greytown for supper. We started off easy on this shorter, a bit more technical stage. After a while I would constantly find myself at the front of the lead bunch.
Later, with a huge effort, in a technical bit we got away from the rest. This is where we had the wild animal cow incident..
The crowds were amazing as we steamed through the feed zones. On every downhill we would increase our lead! We went crazy fast on the downhills!
Most of the time we had a gap of about 3 minutes. Up all the longer climbs my legs would fade a bit, but Nino would motivate hard and get me going harder than comfort.
We did it!!
A maiden Epic stage win for both of us! It was magical and all the pain disappeared. Our Scott camp was joyful!
Prize giving ceremony in the dining tent that evening was cool. We got the loudest cheer as we went up for the stage win.
The Queen stage.., this was the toughest stage of 2014 Epic. We joked the night before that no one will expect us to go out in front again on this stage.., we should do it and go for it!
We were at the front as we crested the biggest climb of 2014 Epic with Sauser and Rabon. Thereafter we got a gap on a rough downhill section. And again we put our heads down and went for it with about two an a half hours of racing left!
In the last 20km on the last bit of Groenlandberg climb, my legs were in too deep again. Torpado caught and passed us. We knew the last bit was technical and we needed to push hard here, but my legs could only go that fast.
We made up time through the last rough stuff, but the section was just not long enough. We finished 2nd, about 10 seconds off Torpado, on the toughest stage of this years pic.
We were happy, but another stage win would have been cool!
This night I prayed and gave thanks for my legs that came along! I gave thanks., but little did I know that the best was yet to come..
By now we were confident and eager to dish out the pain. Well., I was finally confident., Nino had it all the time.
This the shortest stage and most technical, we set out to win it. From the gun we were out front calling the shots. Later we had a special moment where our backup team, Gert and Matthys, broke away with us. The spectators went wild!.
Unfortunately they had to stop to fix a puncture. We kept on pushing hard and extended our lead to eventually win with about a 6 minute margin. That was FUN!!
The Champs Elysees of mountain biking!
Today it was all out!!
Nothing to leave in the tank for another stage.
The night before I imagined how we would win the final stage.., we would break away and just win it! At the finish I imagined how I stuck out my hand and touched the crowd as we rolled onto the field and over the finish line.
Again we set out to win this one. I had to dig deep in the first half of this stage. I took chances on every downhill to make contact with the lead bunch again. Nino was setting a solid pace!
At the portage section we were away with Torpado and our backup team. This was shhweet! I took my chance down the portage and ran away from the rest just to catch a breather before the last punch home. We dropped Torpado on the portage.
From here it was the Scott train home! Motivation was high and nothing was going to stop us. One nervous moment as a piece of wire got stuck in my back wheel, but no damage done.
Then there it was! the moment I had imagined the night before. The only cooler thing was that I sat at the back and watched as Matthys stuck out his hand and touched the crowd., just as I imagined myself do it. The tail whips close to the finish were pretty natural and special too!
The gesture to let Gert and Matthys take the stage came from Nino. I was happy with it! What a true champion and legend!
That was our Cape Epic! From the worst day on a bike for me to one of the best. With new friends and best friends!
We did not win the race, but I think we stole the show!
So what is that drive and mental state to work hard in training and to never give up in this race??
Religion.., My mental power and drive comes from my Christian religion and faith. Faith in my savior and that he gave me these talents and will always provide!
Mental power is king.
My God is king!
What is it that drives you?? Maybe its the same thing.., you just don't know it yet. That drive in you to do good and work hard and have faith in what ever you do!
The past weekend we races a Cat1 cross country race in Pietermaritzburg. I won the race and scored 60 valuable UCI point.., team mate Matthys Beukes finished in 4th position.
We kicked of my 2014 season with cross country African champs in Durbanville. Prep for this season started a few weeks earlier than previous years. There is always that slight nervousness at the first race. Everyone has to throw out their cards and show what they have really been doing over the festive season.
By lap two Rourke Croeser and I had a reasonable lead over the rest. Punches were flying! On lap 4 I managed to get away and could settle into my own rhythm keeping riding safe and smooth.
Halfway through lap 5 I cut my rear tire and had to ride on the rim to the tech zone for a wheel change. Back on the bike I found myself in 3rd spot. It took me the whole next lap to get back to the front. With an impressive consistent ride, Lourens Luus joined the 3 man battle for first. My chase back was a bit too quick and I had to use the second last lap to recover if I wanted to through the last punch.
I turned myself inside out up the last 2 min climb to crack Lourens and Rourke. On the downhill home it was just about maintaining that 10s gap to win the race.
This is going to be an exciting cross country racing year! With racing this close, everyone's game will be lifted!
My planning and support behind the scenes this year is on a next level compared to previous seasons. I basicly got into a car, onto a plane, on my bike, peddled hard, changed a wheel and peddled harder. No worries of how I'm getting where. I can just focus more on training and racing hard. This was an all out team effort!
1st Philip Buys
2nd Lourens Luus
3rd Rourke Croeser
My 2013 season did not end after the Andorra world cup. Blog updates just came to a halt.
After Andorra I just spent my time prepping for World Champs on home soil in Pietermaritzburg. We had a camp in Cape Town and I did all my training as prescribed leading up to the big race. I was a great experience and the support was insane!
Unfortunately I did not get the result that I set out to achieve. Although my training was going well and I was doing all my sessions, my recovery was the problem. Being busy with too many other things off the bike, didn't give my body enough recovery time to adapt to my training. Physical and mental recovery was non existing. I was basicly training my ass off, but without recovery, I wasn't getting any stronger. All was not lost though, I learned and rediscovered the importance of optimum recovery.
I had a short break after Worlds and had to make a call whether I'd go to the last World cup in Norway or not. Budget did not really allow for it, neither did my then motivation and fitness, but I felt it was important to go because we have 2014 World champs there. Focus was on the Eliminator this time. I was eliminated in the 1/4 final round.
Back home again it was time to prep for Cape Pioneer. We decided to do a few races as part of preparation. I partnered with Matthys Beukes again and we had good fun racing and winning The Lesotho Sky 6 day stage race. After this we were off to Mankele for The 3 Towers stage race. This expedition was cut short, as Matthys developed a stomach bug and we had to withdraw on day one. I decided to get back to Pretoria and won the Nissan Trailseeker race at Hakahana. All in the same weekend.
Two weeks later it was time for Pioneer. We had mud, rain and some more mud. We won a few stages and the points competition for the most top positions. Unfortunately a bad Day 2 from me and some bad luck on Day 3 saw us chasing back time most of the race and gave us the 2nd spot overall.
It was now time for my season end holiday! I did however squeeze in a last win at the Nissan Trailseeker Down & Dirty.
Prep for 2014 has already started in mid November. I'm already hitting figures now that are better than figures of previous seasons this time of year. Goals are set and motivation is at a high. All issues that might affect my training and recovery have been dealt with. I have a great support team in the form of Jumpertrax in place and the amazing backing from Scott yet again for the new season. In overview 2013 was still a great season. Continental Champion, National Champion, Cape Epic all African winners and a 5th place at a World Cup Eliminator. And most important of all, a fun, injury free and healthy season! Only by grace!
South African national cross country champs took place at the Hayterdale trails near Addo Elephant Park. From the start I set a hard pace, got away and stayed away winning the race with a reasonable gap. With me on the podium was team mate Matthys Beukes in second and Ben Melt Swannepoel in third.
Two days after SA champs we were off to Andorra for the 4th world cup race. In the XCE race I did not go all out in my qualifying run and qualified 13th. In the 1/8 heat I made it first over the line comfortably with allot of time to spare. With my 1/4 final heat I could just not get into that 1st or 2nd spot to progress. In the end I finished 11th.
My XCO race was good. I felt a hundred times better than all the previous world cup races this year. I lined up 21st and sat comfortably behind a few riders going through the start into the head wind. After the first intermediate split I was only a few seconds off the leading bunch. I had to back off a bit and settled in around 32nd place for the next few laps. With 1.5 laps to go I slashed the sidewall of my tire. I came to the race without spare wheels. Had some very expensive overweight issues at the Emirates check in counter and my spare wheels were the second thing to stay at home. My race was pretty much over by then and I rode to the finish on my rim to get pulled off the track and make sure I score what ever points I could.
We have three days more here in Andorra before we have to catch our flight back home. Good time to get into the mountains at good altitude.
The fourth and final race of our National Cross Country series took place at the Mankele bike park near Nelspruit.
Four days before the event I came back from a World Cup race in Italy. Although I got my first ever World Cup podium in the Eliminator race I was not happy at all with my performance in the Cross Country event two days later. The results were not hundred percent what I went out for but I still scored valuable UCI points and my world ranking is up to 19th now
With my return home to South Africa I had some precautionary blood tests done at the Pretoria High Performance Centre just for a good peace of mind. My system was taking some shots with the stresses of being sick just before traveling all over the world for the last few weeks.
Back in Mankele it was great to have some tranquil vibes out in the bushveld. The race track did'n have much climbing in it, but very rocky and fast trails.
With the first two laps I went out hard and opened up a reasonable gap over a strong chasing bunch. By lap four James Reid impressively closed the gap and it was race on between the two of us for the last two laps. Here and there I tried to apply pressure through the technical bits but halfway through the final lap I was content to take it down to a sprint finish.
I won the race in a sprint finish just ahead of James. Team mate Matthys Beukes secured third some thirty seconds behind us.
For the next three weeks I will travel as little as possible and won't participate in any races. It is again time to focus on quality training and recovery in preparation for the South African National Championships in Port Elizabeth and the next World Cup race in Andorra.
A week after SA Marathon champs we find ourselves in Italy for the third UCI World Cup event.
Yesterday I raced the XC eliminator. I qualified 4th fastest and managed to make it through all the way to the semi finals. In the first 10 meters of my semi final heat I snapped my chain. I had to finish the lap if I wanted the opportunity to race in the small final for that 5th spot on the podium. A few minutes after my easy jog safely around the track we lined up again for the small final. I managed to win this heat and got myself the spot on the podium.
I cant say that my legs feel like they had an easy day out, but I scored valuable UCI points and got some good airtime. They broadcasted the race live on television here and we saw a rerun earlier today as well. 36 hours should be enough recovery time to be ready for the XCO race on Saturday.
After the World Cup in Albstadt we had a 7 hour drive to get to Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic to take part in the second World Cup.
This time I was entered and felt ready to do the cross country eliminator race on Friday as well. For this race I qualified 2nd fastest and got eliminated in the quarter final heat. I ended up finishing 13th, my best result thus far in the XCE format. I wanted to do better though.
Sunday it was time for the main event. Except for it being 7 degrees Celsius the weather conditions were looking pretty good. I lined up 19th and had a great start loop then settled into around 38th place where I felt allot more comfortable than the previous weekend. From here on I started moving up and was lying 28th at one stage. Top 20 was just ahead of me at the front of the bunch I was in.
It felt like I was riding pretty much within my limits, but in the last two laps I went into deep oxygen debt and struggled to recuperate without going slow! I lost a lot of positions and ended up finishing 49th.
The preparation for this first European trip was good, the bike was perfect, start position was ideal, the flu was untimely, the results should have been better..., but the experience was great. It is now time to head home where I will join up with Matthys Beukes to give South African marathon champs in Hazyview a good bash this weekend!