It is official Philip Buys (Garmin-adidas) is South Africa’s second best pro-elite cross country rider at the moment.
He proved it over the weekend at the national event which took place at Rietvlei Farm in Alberton when for the umpteenth time this year he was the only rider who was really prepared to take on Burry Stander (Specialized).
Buys managed to stick with Stander for the first four laps but then Stander proved why he is currently fourth on the UCI’s cross country rankings.
In what Buys called “slow poison” Stander just kept on increasing his pace ever so slightly from the fourth lap onwards.
“I realized I had problems when Burry got a slight gap on me. Try as I may I just could not manage to close it as Burry was just too strong. Eventually he just rode away from me.”
James Reid (BMC) who is still an u.23-rider finished was the third rider to finish.
By finishing second Buys insured that is the overall winner of the national cross country series.
Naturally Buys is proud of his achievement, but he cannot help to be worried about what is happening at the moment in South African cross country racing.
“On Saturday I think at most there were 20 pro-elite riders competing. In Port Elizabeth there were even fewer riders at the start. That is definitely not a healthy situation for our sport if one compares it to what is happening internationally.
“In a World Cup-race more than 80 riders will start and in the smaller races you will have at least 60 and more riders competing.
“I thought a lot what I as rider could do to help create awareness for South cross country races, but there is only so much I as a rider can do.
“The big problem is that the current national cross country series is not marketed at all. Before each event there are more questions than answers.
“Personally I think it was a big mistake to take the series away from MTN and Fritz Pienaar because when they organized it people (riders and spectators) knew what was happening. “
Buys does not hesitate to say the turnabout in his career as a cross country cyclist came about due to a total team effort between himself and dr. Jeroen Swart of the National Sport Institute in Cape Town.
“You can say that I am the power of and Jeroen is the brain of our cycling relationship.”
Swart is also excited with the way Buys has improved in the last six months.
“The training with Philip has gone really well. He is a focused athlete and does his training without needing to be guided and cajoled. This is the mark of a professional. It sometimes makes me nervous because I don’t hear from him as often as with some other athletes. However, when I check, he has done everything as expected.
“If we compare his data to October last year, he has improved approximately 10% across the board. One can see this in the consistency of his results.
“The single biggest problem this year has been two viral infections. We had planned two big peaks during the first half of the year. The first was to be the African Champs in Jonkershoek. Unfortunately Philip developed an upper respiratory tract infection one week before the race and was actually bed ridden till the Tuesday before the race. He therefore raced below his best but still managed 3rd place in the elite men.
“His second big peak was scheduled for the World Cup in PMB. Once again he caught a cold. We had taken all the necessary precautions this time round but it just came down to bad luck. He then had a nasty crash and withdrew from the race.
“Philip should continue to improve in the next five years and he is very capable of racing in the top 20 in the World. We are awaiting the latest UCI rankings which will determine the number of slots open to SA at the Olympics in 2012.
“Whether or not SA will send two riders, even if they have the slots will really depend on whether Philip becomes an outside contender for a medal. This would require a very good race at this year’s World Champs (top 20 if possible) and some excellent results in the first quarter of next year.
“Our next big focus is the World Championships and if he manages to stay injury free and in good health, then I expect a great result,” Swart said.