23 July 2013
South African Olympic cyclist Philip Buys is out to prove a point at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships starting in Pietermaritzburg on 26 August – and to give a performance that does justice to the late Burry Stander.
The 24-year-old Team Scott Factory rider headed to Spain for the fourth round of the UCI World Cup last week, looking to fine-tune his form before flying home to prepare for the World Championships at a training camp in Cape Town before heading to Pietermaritzburg a week before the event.
For Durban-born Buys, who recently won the Cycling South African national MTB series title, the 2013 Cross Country World Championships is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I will never again get a chance to compete in a World Cross Country Champs on home soil, and racing on a track that I know well, I want to take full advantage of this opportunity,” he said in a statement ahead of his departure for Europe.
“Every track is difficult in its own way, but the Cascades track seems to suit my style. I race it at every opportunity, and the more you race it the more comfortable you feel on it,” he added.
Since the London Olympic Games, Buys has steadily climbed up the UCI rankings, and now finds himself ranked around 20th in the world, bringing with it a preferential seeding at major international races.
“It’s quite different! When you start at the front everyone seems kind of shaky, while when you are seeded 70th and some way back, you have five seconds or so before you even cross the start line,” he said.
Illness hampered his recent World Cup campaign, but he managed a podium in one of the Eliminator races. That has helped focus his training and preparations for the World Championships.
“I’ve got the power. I know that and the Eliminator proves that. Now I am working on my fitness. Since the Absa Cape Epic I have been focusing more on training and recovery and actually racing less.”
With a top 20 seeding, Buys is looking to finish the World Championships with a top 15 or top 10 result, and says he is driven in a significant way by his desire to sustain the legacy of the late Burry Stander.
“Burry did so much for this sport in South Africa. He set the standard and proved that as a South African you have no excuses not to beat the best in the world,” Buys explained.
“With Burry’s passing the responsibility shifts to us to uphold his standards, and to go further and to take his achievements and go beyond that. That is a huge and positive motivation for me now.”
Buys will also carry forward his experiences at the Olympics as he seeks to make the most of high profile and high pressure opportunities in the future.
“As big as the Olympics were for me, I learnt a lot from that experience. I attach the same level of importance to these World Champs, and I know a lot more about what I have to do to perform at that level now. For me representing my country is a huge honour,” he said.
Home town fans and supporters
Buys has prioritised the UCI MTB and Trials World Championships and wants to wring full value out of the opportunity to race in front of his home town fans and supporters.
“Travelling is always difficult. Your fitness levels drop and you can get sick travelling, so having this event at home is such a great opportunity. I know and like the course, and it will just take a few days to get it properly dialled in.
“Then it is just about controlling myself. Your energy levels tend to be high during the taper phase,” he revealed.
The UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August to 1 September 2013, and will be preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships from 21 to 25 August.