Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes. During Stage 2 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Hermanus High School in Hermanus to Elandskloof in Greyton, South Africa. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Buys and Beukes crossed the ad hoc finish line at the Caledon Botanical Gardens with a stage time of 2:37.02, 10 minutes in front of their nearest Absa African special jersey challengers, BCX (Waylon Woolcock and Hendrik Kruger).

Beukes was happy to finish with a strong lead over BCX and said, “I think it was a good decision to shorten the race. This of course made the racing pretty intense from the start, which we liked. The stage was exciting and the route was quite spectacular.”

Lessons are learned fast on the Absa Cape Epic, and a slight tweak to their strategy meant they were able to pull out a lead and put some pressure on the front runners early on in the day.

“Yesterday I struggled at the back of the pack and that hurt me quite a bit, so this morning we stayed out in the front to set the pace. This is great because it means we can ride in the top five,” said Beukes.

“Three quarters of the way through the stage we backed off a little bit – there are still five days left so there’s no point in ripping off the legs now.”

Buys was happy to use the shortened course to PYGA Euro Steel’s advantage, and adapted accordingly.

“We definitely tried to use it to our benefit. The stage was shorter and faster which suited us a little better than some of the other African teams, and that’s where we capitalised.

“We communicated and gauged ourselves. We discussed if we wanted to go for the stage win but we didn’t chase it in the end. We hung around in front for some time and decided not to push for it.”

Buys does not think it was an opportunity lost.

“I don’t think our lead was unnecessary because I think we got quite a lead for the Absa African special jersey, and it would also be great to go for a stage win somewhere. There is fuel in the tank, and this is where we get going now.”

Woolcock and Kruger had a tougher day than they hoped for, with each rider having issues that forced them to concede time
“In the first 10 kilometres I had some technical problems, so I was forced to stop and found it was a jammed chain and jockey wheel. That cost us time and a lot of riders passed us, so when we got going again we had to find our way through some bad traffic.

“I think another long day would have been a little tough on many of the riders. It would have been tough for us as Waylon was battling some issues of his own, so in hindsight I think we are lucky the day was shortened.

Woolcock didn’t face mechanical issues, but rather health problems.

“Yesterday and last night I started to have some stomach issues. I’m glad that it’s an early finish today – it just gives me a chance to recover. It was also fortunate that we didn’t lose too much time, thanks to the shorter distance,” said Woolcock.

In the race for the Exarro special jersey, Diepsloot MTB Academy (William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona) remained dominant in Stage 2, extending their overall gap to 28 minutes and 20 seconds.

Phillimon Sebona and William Mokgopo of team Diepsloot MTB Academy 1 at the start. Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Mokgopo says it’s a great feeling to hold onto the Exxaro special jersey yet again.

“We came here to try and get a lead right from the first day and then maintain it from there. Today we did just that and tried to open the gap. Phillimon was a champion today,” said Mokgopo.

Although they hold an impressive lead in the Exarro special jersey race, Sebona plans to stay realistic. “The Absa Cape Epic is such a long race and you have to try conserve as much as you can. If we look at our performance history, we have sometimes popped after the first day. That is why it is good to have such a great partner in William. We help as much as we can, and we really do believe in each other.”