Olympian Buys heads up new South African MTB team

London Olympian, Philip Buys, widely regarded as South Africa’s most complete mountain bike racer, will lead a new 14-rider mountain bike racing team into 2015 – and beyond. SCOTT Factory Racing powered by LCB will focus primarily on the Olympic Cross-Country (XCO) discipline with World Championships and Olympic Games success as its long-term goal.

The team comprises four Elite men, eight Junior men and two Junior women. Joining Buys in the Elite section are Matthys Beukes, Gert Heyns and Arno du Toit. The Elite men will help mentor the youngsters within a structured, professional team environment.

Buys is a multiple African and South African XCO champion, while Beukes, Heyns and Du Toit have all excelled at national and continental championships in XCO racing. Du Toit is the current South African Under-23 XCO Champion. The quartet is also accomplished in the longer Marathon discipline (XCM), with Buys, Beukes and Heyns all having won stages in the ABSA Cape Epic with top 10 overall finishes.

The Junior team (all aged 16-18) will race as Team LCB, supported primarily by SCOTT Sports with bicycles and gear, with various other co-sponsors completing the infrastructure, which includes the employment of a full time mechanic and coach.

“Our main focus is developing champion mountain bikers in the XCO discipline,” said Buys.“We have the talent in South Africa and with the backing of SCOTT Sports and LCB (Lead Crystal Batteries), we can create a support system and opportunities that gives those talented riders a chance to grow into champions.”

Buys and Beukes will race the 2015 ABSA Cape Epic as teammates. The pair won the African jersey when they finished sixth overall in 2013. Heyns and Du Toit will ride as their back-up team in this year’s Cape Epic. Heyns and Beukes won the African jersey with their sixth place overall in 2014. One of the objectives for 2015 is to secure the prestigious top African team prize for a third consecutive year.

Although it’s a XCM-format race, the Cape Epic holds a premium level race grading and therefore offers a high volume of International Cycling Union (UCI) rankings points for the XCO discipline. It’s the accumulation of these points that determine where nations are ranked when countries’ start quotas are allocated for Olympic Games participation.

“That’s the main reason we’re doing the Cape Epic,” explained Buys. “We’re chasing those UCI points because the more we can earn for South Africa as a nation, the clearer the path becomes to developing potential medalists at the highest level, whether from our team or not.”

“After having supported Philip and Matthys since 2013 and then adding Gert to the SCOTT Factory Racing team mix last year, we were excited when the opportunity came up to partner with LCB from 2015,” said Phillip Erasmus, Marketing and Product Manager at SCOTT Sports Africa.

“At SCOTT Sports we’re driven by performance, which is why we develop premium quality equipment, whether it’s bicycles or components or cycling gear. The objectives of this group of talented, committed Elite and Junior riders require access to the best equipment available. We’re proud to be able to offer that and join them on this journey in their quest for success.”

“I established the LCB team last year with the aim of giving young, committed mountain bike racers the support to help them achieve their potential. This year, with the mentorship of Philip, Matthys, Gert and Arno, we plan to take it up a notch. Seldom do teenage racers get to interact with and learn from the top pro racers. Our team will have that in place, which will be very valuable,” said Johan Hattingh, CEO of Lead Crystal Batteries.

“With LCB there is at least a five-year commitment to this team because we know that you can’t build a champion bike racer overnight. It takes time. It’s an investment,” added Hattingh.

Heyns will be in action at the Fairview Attakwas Extreme Challenge in Oudtshoorn on Saturday, while Du Toit and Buys will make their first race appearance of 2015 at the Ashburton Investments National Marathon Series event at Meerendal on 31 January. On the same day, Beukes and Heyns will contest the VW Herald MTB Challenge in Port Elizabeth.

“The first race where the whole team will be in action together – the Elites and the Juniors – will be the first round of the South African XCO Cup Series in Port Elizabeth on 14 February. We’re very excited about that day because it will not only be the real start of our campaign for the 2015 XCO racing season, but another step closer to achieving our ultimate objective, creating champion XCO racers,” said Buys.