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Buys has a juggling act with two tough races coming up

South Africa’s top elite men’s cross country mountain biker and 2012 Olympian, Philip Buys is looking forward to returning to the Cascades XCO course for the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, from 11-13 April despite his immediate focus being firmly on the ABSA Cape Epic which gets underway this Sunday.

Buys, pictured right, is under no illusions that it will be a tough few weeks if he is to perform at his best in both events and admitted that pairing up with Swiss cycling sensation Nino Schurter in the Cape Epic is definitely his first major assignment of the year.

ÔÇ£Epic hasn’t ever really been a peak in my season previously but this year, with me having such an incredible opportunity to ride with Nino (Schurter), it’s definitely the first major peak for me.

ÔÇ£Nino could have chosen to ride with anyone in the world so for him to have chosen me is obviously huge for me personally and really has been both a massive confidence booster and a huge honour.

ÔÇ£The first cross country World Cup is then just two weeks after Epic so I don’t quite know what to expect from the Pietermaritzburg World Cup.

ÔÇ£I’ll try recover as quickly as I can after Epic, look to get a few good sessions in before the Pietermaritzburg World Cup but Epic is definitely my first major peak of the year and a huge opportunity for me so a good result at in PMB would be a bonus,ÔÇØ he added.

With his eyes on a slightly different top prize this time around, a disappointing 2013 UCI MTB & Trials World Championships ÔÇô also at Cascades MTB Park ÔÇô will however serve as added motivation for the SCOTT Factory rider as he looks to make amends and get his 2014 international cross country season off to a positive note, despite the likelihood of having two very tired legs being great.

ÔÇ£You always want to do well, especially when you’re competing at home and in front of your home crowd!ÔÇØ said Buys.

ÔÇ£I wasn’t satisfied with my performance at last year’s World Champs at all. I’d prepared well and I had the support but I allowed other things to take my mind off the race a little in the build up to Worlds and so my recovery wasn’t as it should have been.

ÔÇ£Don’t get me wrong, I’ll definitely be out there giving it my all at this year’s World Cup, I’m just not sure how things will pan out for me with it being so close to Epic.

The Gauteng based competitor will hope a solid result in the Western Cape will also help him bring his A game to Pietermaritzburg. ÔÇ£I feel I’ve got everything covered, I’m in a good place mentally and my motivation is definitely up,ÔÇØ said Buys.

ÔÇ£If Epic goes well for us then that would obviously give me another huge boost and I would then look to carry that momentum into the World Cup.ÔÇØ

Buys is also looking forward to the challenge the reworked cross country course at Cascades presents, having reigned supreme at the same venue during the opening leg of the South African MTB Cup Series over the weekend, albeit against a significantly weaker field than what he will be tasked with during his next visit to KwaZulu-Natal’s capital.

ÔÇ£I really enjoyed the new track,ÔÇØ he explained. ÔÇ£Quite a few of the sections have been upgraded and I really enjoyed the changes. Some of the sections that have been taken out were fun but now I just feel the track has a much better flow to it. The old stuff just seemed to break your speed the slightly.

ÔÇ£The new track is a bit shorter but still has plenty of climbing in it! Now the climbing is just short up and downs though and is distributed throughout the whole lap.

ÔÇ£With me being a bit heavier I feel this suits me a whole lot more because I’m a bit better when we have to use a bit of power up the climbs.

Despite having spent many hours trying to get as much mileage into the legs as possible in recent times, Buys is still confident he is well prepared for the Pietermaritzburg leg of the World Cup, especially bearing this year’s Commonwealth Games in mind.

ÔÇ£I’ve still been doing a lot of speed work in the build up to Epic and lot of the usual other stuff I do to prepare for the cross country season. The only real difference is that I started very early this time, with this season’s training having started in November last year already.

ÔÇ£I don’t think my preparations for Epic will come into the equation at all for the World Cup in Maritzburg. It will be more a question of whether I can recover after Epic properly or not.

ÔÇ£Once Epic is done then Commonwealth Games is definitely my second peak of this year and so I’m really hoping for a good cross country build up to that!ÔÇØ

The UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 11-13 April 2014.

Picture: Darren Goddard/Gameplan Media