The way in which Philip Buys (USN) won the Nissan TrailSeeker Diamond Rush marathon (70 km) on Saturday (14 July), was an excellent display of what it takes to be an Olympic mountain biker. Right from the start there was no doubt about who would be the winner.
Buys played around, taking the lead whenever he felt like doing it.
Neil MacDonald (RE:CM) and Brandon Stewart (Fedgroup-Itec) were the only riders who could somehow manage to keep up with him. Stewart, unfortunately, started to fade midway through the race. Afterwards Stewart explained that it was the high altitude that made things difficult for him.
Buys timed his final acceleration to perfection. He waited until the last technical climb before he attacked.
MacDonald, who got dropped at this stage, was the first to admit that his technical skills were not on par with those of Buys.
Buys won in 2 hours 29 minutes and 55 seconds. MacDonald finished second in 2:30:21, with Stewart in the third place in a time of 2:33:33. Despite his excellent performance, Buys was slightly worried after the race.
“I hope I am not getting ill. Throughout the race I felt bloated and uncomfortable. It was as if my body was telling me all the time to slow down. Because of this I raced somewhat conservatively.
“During the past two weeks I really put in some long and hard hours as part of my preparation for the Olympics. Fortunately, I have done all the hard work which means that I will be able to take things slightly easier from now on.
“I have only two important races left before I will compete at the Olympic Games.
“The first will be the South African Cross-Country Championship at Mankele this coming Saturday. “I am looking forward to race against Burry Stander again. I am not saying that I will beat him, but I am certainly not planning to race for a second-place finish.”
When asked how it felt to win the Nissan TrailSeeker Diamond Rush for a second time, Buys did not hesitate to say that he thoroughly enjoyed himself.
“When you enter to compete in any of the Nissan TrailSeeker races, it is an absolute given that you will have the opportunity to ride on some of the finest single-track sections available in the country.
“What made the racing even more exciting this time, is that the route went much less on district roads and more on single track. This definitely made things much easier for me.”
MacDonald has no regrets about the way his race played out.
“Philip deserved to win because he was the strongest rider on the day.
“What excites me is that I can feel that I am becoming stronger and stronger with each race. I hope it is merely a matter of time before I get a good result.”
The Diamond Rush was only MacDonald’s third race since he had broken his collarbone during the MTN Mabalingwe ultra-marathon.
Stewart said that he plans to compete in more of the Nissan TrailSeeker marathons.
“It is always a well-organized event that is becoming more and more popular. From a sponsor’s point of view it is important to compete in the series.”