He then teamed up with 20-year-old Julian Jessop a day before the Epic started.
“We thought after Philip pulled out that all our goals would go out the window,” Beukes told In the Bunch today.
“It was Julian’s first Epic and he is only 20 years old. He didn’t even train for the event. All of his focus was on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup [in Stellenbosch two weeks earlier].
“For him to step up and only be notified the day before [that he would be racing] and still be able to pull off the African title was really special.
“It is amazing we still managed to achieve that,” he added.
Beukes, who won the Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge in January, said they suffered their first setback during the prologue when a mechanical failure saw them lose valuable time.
“It was almost over before it started with Philip pulling out. Then in the prologue I broke my rear wheel so the last five kilometres I had to ride on the rim. We lost quite a bit of time there.
“Then we were even worse off and had even lower expectations [of success],” he said. “But in hindsight I think it took a lot of pressure off us not being in the red African jersey after the prologue.
“For us it was better to chase, especially for Julian because he had less pressure to deal with. The Epic is never over until it’s over.”
Beukes said he knew they would need to ride smart in the following stages.
“In a previous event when I rode with Gert Heyns he was also 20 at the time, so I have been in this situation before.
“I knew it was important not to put too much pressure on Julian in the first four days, otherwise he would have worn out as the race went on.
“I played quite a supportive role to him [in the first four days]. I made sure he ate enough and that his legs did not hurt too much.
“I also made sure to keep him out of the wind as much as possible.
“We stayed out of the red jersey on those stages while we kept it smooth and steady. It worked out quite well in the end.”
On the last three stages Beukes said they “wound it up” to win the African title and finish 12th overall.
South Africa’s Ellsworth ASG pair, HB Kruger and Stuart Marais, finished just eight minutes back in 13th overall and second in the African category. NAD Pro’s Nico Bell and Matt Beers finished in 15th and third respectively.
“There were some strong teams, definitely a few stronger than last year,” Beukes said of his African counterparts.
“Stuart and HB put up a good fight. They were in the red for the first few days. We had a strong battle against them on the last day.
“When I saw we would be up against Nico and Matt as well I knew we would need some luck to beat them. They are both older and more experienced than Julian.
“I knew on the longer stages they would be stronger, but unfortunately for them they suffered from a stomach issue which may have hampered their chances.
“That is the thing about the Epic, you have to come to the race healthy and you have to stay healthy. I am thankful for our [PYGA Euro Steel] support system that ensured good recoveries on each stage.”