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For him and Scott LCB Factory Racing teammate Arno du Toit, the African Continental MTB Championships in Lesotho has been an important date in their racing calendars. Buys, who won the Lesotho Sky stage race with teammate Matthys Beukes in 2015, understood the importance of arriving a few days earlier to adapt to the high altitude.

Buys knew that a win in Lesotho would be a tough ask. James Reid and Brendon Davids won it in previous years, and they were better suited to the route, which started with a long steady climb. Philip says: “Arriving at the track, I felt it does not suit my riding style. I’m better with short punchy climbs, so I had to adapt my race strategy”. Arno du Toit had a similar approach to the race. Recovering from a stomach bug, Du Toit had to manage his race conservatively to finish with enough fuel in the tank. Both him and Buys started the first lap with a stronger finish in mind.

On the second lap, Buys moved to second place behind race leader James Reid and was poised to start his attack. Lap after lap Buys built up a valuable lead of 30 seconds on Reid, leaving Du Toit and Davids to battle it out for third place.

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“I was saving up a few matches to light up at the end, but from about halfway through it was clear that Buys and Reid were not fading and I would be dicing it out for the final step on the podium,” said Du Toit afterwards. It was a cat-and-mouse race between him and Davids, and they had a strong pack on their heels to apply pressure.

For Phil Buys, this win is a breakthrough in his journey to the World Champs and the Olympics. After a consistent start to the year, his hard work is starting to pay off. The next three events are crucial to securing a spot in the Olympic team.

Team manager Ruan Lochner was over the moon with having both of his riders on the podium. “After a disappointing turn of events at the Epic and with both riders who had to adapt to a more conservative approach due to a tough week and a tricky track, we are delighted with the outcome. It was a real team effort, with a lot of support behind the scenes from crew and sponsors alike.”

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