2019 Sabie Classic - York Timbers Sporting Grounds.
As we arrived in Sabie on Thursday we unpacked, unwinded and the guys went for a ride around town. "Ulusaba" which means "fearful river", which Sabie's name is derived from, not only perfectly describes the Sabie river that was once full of Nile crocodiles. It also has a significant effect when the idea of battling up the long and unpredictable Mamba climb comes to mind; something all participants at the Classic could relate too.
For Matthys Beukes, this all came to relief as he calmly crossed the finish line on Saturday, claiming victory almost three minutes ahead of teammate Philip Buys. "Knowing the conditions in Sabie during this time of year, going into the event I was a bit nervous. The terrain in Sabie could become very unpredictable, especially after some rain.
Sabie is also the place where I had my most serious crash in my career. I broke my shoulder, hand and foot in a split second. Ever since that day I have been nervous going into the Sabie Classic. From a more positive perspective, it is also the race where I did my first ever National Cup as a Sub Junior.
The weeks leading up to the event was good, and I knew that my form was excellent. Seeing that the Mamba was in the first 30 kilometres, I knew that the race would suit me well. I planned to put in a hard effort going up the climb, possibly creating a gap that I could use as "risk management" going down the rugged descent, creating less room for error.
I knew the final 20km would be hard racing and that I could put in the last move there once everyone is a bit more fatigued so risking it on the downhill would've been pointless. That was the plan, but things don't always go according to the method and I had to adapt.
All in all, I'm happy with my ride, and it was great to see my teammates do so well, Cape Epic here we come!
Till then, stay safe." - Matthys Beukes
As the front of the race approached the tail end of the Mamba, Philip Buys leapt into action creating a gap of about twenty seconds on the chasing group. As the Mamba was staring Philip and Matthys straight in the eyes, Philip managed to defeat the Mamba first, blissfully being titled "King of the Mountain".
"I could see the gap to Philip was coming down and decided to bide my time and see how things unfold as we approach the fifty-kilometre mark. After a few more ups and downs, twists and turns we were together and riding at a comfortable pace nicely towards the first and only tech zone at about 60 kilometres. Entering the harder parts of the final twenty, I put in a couple of efforts on the climbs and later found myself on my own with 15km to go." - Matthys Beukes
Unfortunately, right before we started our Trek across the Koue Bokkeveld two weeks ago, Philip Buys came across some unusual medical issue which has ever since caused problems during his riding, especially where he needs to sharpen up and concentrate.
"I have an eye infection, so this combined with the slippery terrain made navigating the downhills quite the challenge for me. I didn't want to risk crashing, so I tried to ride safer towards the end of the race. On the bottom of the descent, Matthys had already caught up with me and dropped me on the flat roads approximately twenty kilometres from the finish line. I am delighted with the 2nd place. Especially finishing right behind my Absa Cape Epic teammate, cashing in some useful UCI points."
The weekend also felt like a fun “team building” exercise with all of us camping it out in the Euro Steel team truck. The whole setup feels well “oiled”, and everyone seems to work together seamlessly. This weekend was a good exercise leading up to the Epic, and I'm sure that this past weekend will keep us motivated in the final preparation." - Philip Buys
For Phillimon Sebona, the race didn't correctly play along after he lost his water bottle on the first significant downhill section. The Mamba drained his energy without a sufficient amount of nutrition, especially when battling against world-class marathon athletes. Luckily Phillimon made it over the climb without losing too much time.
"Things started turning sour quickly after that. In the last 30 km, I managed to break my rear wheel. I exchanged my wheel at the tech zone ten kilometres after it got damaged.
These unfortunate events led to me losing vital energy, and I started cramping in the final two k's. All and all the race was a good test, and I enjoyed it nevertheless. I want to thank everyone who has been supporting me." - Phillimon Sebona
Young gun Pieter Du Toit never seems to disappoint with his performance. "Overall, the Sabie Classic was a great race. Going down on Thursday, sleeping in the team truck and spending time with the guys was a great experience.
The race started quite hard after Matthys and Phillip put in quite an effort on the first climb. Philip gained a few seconds on us on the first significant descent and right after regrouping Philip attacked the group of four up the Mamba, where Matthys followed leaving me behind like a rock.
As I crested the climb, I rode with Phillimon lying fifth and sixth places respectively. Then the fun part started, the long slippery and rocky downhills that Sabie is known for over the years. After fighting the slippery downhill terrain, I was out of fuel and started to feel fatigued. The final few kilometres of the race was brutal, but I kept my head and made it to the finish line in fifth place. I am super happy with the position that I managed to finish it. Very well done to Matthys for taking the win and Philip with his second-place finish.
As a team, we are very excited to be going into the Cape Epic on a positive note. We have in the past three races come across unforeseen events, made mistakes and also claimed victory. We are fortunate with the outcome, learnt valuable lessons and we are looking forward to making our mark amongst the worlds top teams in the Mountain Biking scene in three weeks.
Till then, good luck to all the athletes in preparation for the eight-day event. #thisisgoingtobeepic