Normally Philip Buys (Garmin-adidas) will not be satisfied with a second-place finish in a mountain bike race, but the Lost City mountain bike race this past weekend (21-22 August 2010) was one of the rare exceptions.
Buys was pipped by Renier Bellinghan (USN) a few metres from the finishing line.
“I thought I had the race in the bag when I was the first rider to race through the last two sharp corners. Even though I was sprinting flat out for the victory, Renier managed to catch up with me again. The moment this happened, it was ‘race over’ for me, because Renier is one of the fastest mountain bikers and he is seldom beaten in a sprint to the line.
“Losing out on the victory is not a big deal to me. I was not really racing to win. My main aim was to use the Lost City race as a very hard training session in my build-up to next weekend’s UCI Cross-country Championship in Canada.
“With this in mind, I attacked quite early during the race and I continued to attack. The idea was to find out for how long, and how hard, I could push my body into the red. When I could not maintain the fast pace, I took a breather before making the pace hard again.
“I needed to do that during a race, because it is one thing to train and quite another to be racing. The good news, as far as I am concerned, is that my body was able to withstand the punishment that I was meting out. I did not cramp once, which was a great relief.
“All in all, I think Lost City was the confidence booster that I needed before the World Championship.”
Francois Theron and Marc Bassingthwaighte are the only two Garmin-adidas riders who will be competing on Saturday (28 August) in the MTN Cullinan ultra-marathon.
Theron, who firmly believes that his legs and not his mouth should do the talking before a race, is quietly confident that he will have a good race.
“My training has been going well. I have put in some long and hard hours at George and for the first time I feel strong and racing fit again. But, having said that, I also fully realize that no amount of hard training will ever guarantee victory.”
Listening to Theron talking about his preparation, one gets the feeling that he might just surprise himself and many of the other riders on Saturday.
Before his heart began to complicate his life as a professional mountain, Theron was considered to be one of South Africa’s most talented young marathon riders.
At the beginning of last year, Theron managed to finish among the top five every time he competed in an ultra-marathon.
As far as the MTN Cullinan ultra-marathon is concerned, Theron admits that he does not really know what to expect.
“I know that there will be some challenging single-track sections and that we will be challenged by climbs, but I don’t expect the climbs to be too tough. Gauteng is not known for its mountains.
“However, I suspect that the racing will be made hard by constant little tough climbs, which will mean that the riders will never really have a chance to recover.”