Buys’s year was badly affected when he contracted a viral infection days before the Cape Epic in March. He was sidelined for half the season. But the Pioneer Trek victory brought a welcome silver lining.
“Matthys has won the Pioneer Trek before but this was my first time so it was great,” a delighted Buys told In the Bunch today.
“I went through a dip in the middle of the season and it is nice to start getting solid results now towards the end of the season.
“It sort of makes up for all the bad luck earlier this year,” he added.
Buys and Beukes won four of the seven stages, losing out to Spur-Specialized’s Alan Hatherly and Simon Andreassen in the other three – the time-trials in the prologue and stage three, as well as the final stage.
They were beaten in a sprint finish in the last stage but they had accumulated a wide enough gap on the general classification to end up winners by just under three minutes over Hatherly and Andreassen.
NAD Pro’s Matt Beers and Gawie Combrinck completed the podium.
“Alan and Simon are cross-country specialists so they were strong in the time-trials. We weren’t too worried about that,” Buys said.
“On the longer stages we seemed to get the better of them towards the end. After about three or four stages we started to realise where their weak spots were and we punched them there every time.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy race for us [though]. It was a good challenge against Spur-Specialized and NAD and it made for interesting racing.
“It was good for us to have a close battle,” he said, with Hatherly and Beers having won the race alongside each other last year.
Buys said the toughest challenge for him was adjusting to the extreme cold conditions over the Swartberg Pass in stage five.
“I was almost frozen at the bottom in that stage,” he said. “It was probably the coldest I’ve ever been.
“The day before it was probably about 30 to 35 degrees [Celsius] and then on that day [Friday] it was super cold on top of the mountain.
“It was quite an intense experience and I think it was quite a nice story for everyone who took part.”
Buys said the result was just what he needed after having last taken part in a week-long stage race at the joBerg2c in April last year.
“Since then it’s been only one-day or three-day races. It was good for me to complete a long race like this, especially after having been off the bike for quite some time.
“It gave my fitness a boost and I could see my acceleration and intensity are starting to get good enough,” he said, admitting though that he did “struggle a bit” in the last 30 to 40 minutes of the longer stages.
“Luckily I had Matthys with me to pull me through there. I think I gained good fitness after that.”
Buys and Beukes will next turn their focus to the Wines2Whales Race from November 2 to 4, their last major race of the season.