Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys are back at the top of their game. Today they defended their Berg and Bush ‘Descent’ title when they won the third and final stage by a sizeable margin at Emseni, KwaZulu-Natal.
However they suffered various setbacks this year. First Buys was ruled out for almost half the season due to a viral infection, then Beukes contracted swine flu later in the year.
In a season where NAD Pro’s quartet of Nico Bell, Matt Beers, Gawie Combrinck and Wessel Botha dominated most stage- and one-day races, Beukes and Buys today finally achieved the breakthrough they had been seeking.
Just last weekend Bell and Beers won the 3 Towers, beating Beukes and Buys into second place.
“This [winning] was another opportunity for us to turn things around this year and we’re very chuffed it played out the way we wanted it to,” Beukes told In the Bunch today.
“It was super tight racing against NAD Pro’s two teams,” he said, with Bell and Beers having finished second overall and Combrinck and Botha third.
Heading into the 48km final stage today Bell and Beers held a slender lead, with the final encounter set to be the decider.
“We were just two seconds behind Matt and Nico [before today’s stage] and Wessel and Gawie were only about 20 seconds behind us, so we definitely had our hands full,” Beukes said.
“But we had a game plan for today and thankfully it worked out perfectly. Yesterday we tried quite a few times to create a gap, but the climbs were too short to create any decent lead.”
Today they decided to play their trump card on the key climb of the stage, the Spioenkop mountain, with approximately 15km left.
“That is quite a big climb and we just knew we had to make it as hard as possible going up there,” Beukes said.
“We knew, once we were on the downhill with a few seconds’ gap, that we’d be able to pull away further.
“For us, the finish line was basically on top of Spioenkop.”
Beukes explained that the lead-up to last week’s 3 Towers race was not ideal after he had missed a flight the day before the first stage, which indirectly affected their chances during the race.
“That was outside of my control and it definitely affected my performance. This week I made sure I did everything right travel-wise and made sure nothing could go wrong.
“The week leading up to Berg and Bush was very much textbook stuff, and that showed in our racing.”
Beukes said he and Buys took a “mental knock” following their respective illness layoffs this year, but were motivated to end the season on a high note.
“The mind will definitely win over the legs from here on,” he said, with their immediate focus the Cape Pioneer Trek next weekend, an event he and Buys did not participate in last year.