Philip Buys gets two top10 European finishes

Philip Buys (Garmin-adidas) achieved two top-ten finishes on consecutive days this past weekend (29-30 May) during a two-day cycling festival in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.  Judging by these performances, it is evident that he should be included in CyclingSA’s planning for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

He started by finishing 3rd overall in a 50km half marathon and this was followed up the next day with a 6th position in the 70km marathon. Buys was the first u.23 rider across the finishing line in both races.

Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin-adidas) also impressed with his placing of respectively 6th and 8th overall in the half marathon and marathon. Francois Theron (Garmin-adidas) was 8th in the half marathon.

Buys gave the following account of the half marathon: “Not knowing any of the riders in the field, I just maintained a low profile while assessing the situation. Early on during the race two team-mates from Team Vaude set the pace and they opened a gap between themselves and the rest of the field.  I ended up chasing them during the entire race.”

“The spectators on the route were very friendly.  They tried to give me time gaps, but it did not help me in any way because I could not understand what they were saying.  In the end I finished about four minutes behind the winner.

“On the morning of the marathon I was, for various reasons, not very motivated for the race. The main reason was the weather. It was really miserable and the temperature was a meager 10 degrees Celsius.  To make things even worse, it was raining as well.  Definitely not ideal conditions for a race in which about 2200 meters of climbing awaited us.

“When I arrived at the starting point, I noticed the same two Vaude riders who dominated the half marathon. This time they had an extra team-mate with them.  It was no surprise, therefore, that it was again the Team Vaude riders who set the pace. During the first 35km everything happened in exactly the same way as during the half marathon.

“The Vaude riders managed to split the field with their constant aggressive riding. We were a group of eight riders in the breakaway.

“I passed two riders and spent the rest of the race chasing on my own again. At the 40km mark we hit a steep climb of about 10km. It took us up into the Alps and even through some snow. In the beginning it felt as if I was flying up the climb. To my surprise I received a time gap, in English. Apparently I was only 2 minutes behind the leader. After the long climb, we had a 10 kilometer downhill section that was followed by another long climb. I managed to hold on to my 6th place overall.”

Bassingthwaighte said he had a rude awakening during the half marathon when he realized that the race started with a very steep climb.

“At some parts of the climb we had to battle up a 25% gradient. Needless to say, my legs were not pleased at all. The rest of the route was quite enjoyable. I finished in 6th place but I could definitely feel the strain in my legs.”

After his good finish in the half marathon, Bassingthwaighte looked forward to racing the marathon, especially because he wanted to test himself on the climbs.

“I tried a new race tactic during the marathon.  My experience was that my muscles took a hard beating if I started out guns blazing from the very first moment. As a result of this, I always fell back first before I could really become competitive in the race.

“Under the guidance of Mannie (Heymans), we rode together up the first climb. The tactic worked much better and soon I was catching riders instead of being passed.

“The previous day’s half marathon definitely took its toll on my legs and I certainly did not feel very good while crawling up to the highest point of the route.

“With 15km to go and still one mountain ahead, a marshal told me that I was in 8th place. That was a pleasant surprise, because I thought that I was about 13th.  When I rode up the last hill, I felt better and managed to hold on to my position until the finish.

“I really needed these two top-ten finishes as a confidence booster. I am now highly motivated for the coming weekend’s Alpen Tour, a four-day stage race in Austria.”

According to Theron, the beginning of the half marathon was quite an experience.

“I didn’t know any faces and had no idea whom to watch or what they were saying.  However, I was very eager to get on with the race after my DNF at the World Cup. We started by racing a very steep and intense 420m climb.  This quickly sorted out the field, including me.  I couldn’t match the pace of the leaders and had to watch how the riders passed me one by one.  At one time I thought that even the women were going to pass me any second, but luckily we reached the top, and I managed to pull myself together.

“Afterwards, I caught up with my team-mate Marc Bassingthwaighte and the two of us worked together to improve our  positions.  But when we started the second lap up the same 420m climb, Marc was just way too strong for me and he left me behind.  During the rest of the lap, I managed to pass 4 more riders and finished the day in 8th position, but with mixed feelings.  I was satisfied with myself that I managed a top-ten finish under the circumstances, but did not know why I was so slow.

“Before the marathon the next day, I decided to put all negative thoughts aside and start the day with a smile.  But when we hit that climb again, I just didn’t have any legs and my feet were as heavy as bricks.   Once again I dropped back a few places.

“I made a few serious attempts to get myself back into the race, but it was to no avail.  I then decided that it would be better for me to pull out of the race at the 30km mark.  I kept in mind that we would be racing a very tough four-day stage race the following weekend.  It would be better, therefore, for me to rest my legs and get myself ready for that, hoping for a good result.

“To summarize, I did not have a good start to my European racing.  But that is what racing is like and I’m looking forward to the next few races.”

Mannie Heymans went to see a specialist the day before the half marathon.

“He gave me an injection and made another appointment. Before the race I said to myself: ‘Don’t worry.   Your arm won’t snap off.  If you can bear a bit of pain, you can race.’

“Lacking some training during the past 5 weeks since the crash, as well as lacking confidence for the steep down-hills, I took it easy.  That is to say if you could take it easy up these monster climbs!  Anyway, I managed to put in some good training miles for the races to come. My shoulder was not 100%, but I could feel that there was progress.  I finished in the 17th position.  Ironically, I won this race in 2002.”