Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns secured a rare all-South African win in the prestigious final stage after being ushered home by their distinguished SCOTT teammates, World Champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland and South Africa’s Philip Buys.
Photographs from the finish line show the overwhelmed South African pair crossing the line as Schurter and Buys celebrate behind them with as much enthusiasm as they would a win for themselves.
“That was a really special day for sure,” recalled Beukes. “To understand the emotion behind that win you must remember that stage in 2013 where Philip Buys and I were in a two-way sprint with (Spain’s Jose) Hermida and (Dutchman Rudi) Van Houts for the win, but I couldn’t find the power and lost the stage for us. To be back a year later and roll across the line with both our Scott teams in first and second was incredible.”
That win lifted Beukes and Heyns to sixth overall and ensured that they took home the red Absa African special jersey – for the first team from the continent to finish the race. It was Beukes’s second red jersey in two years and he was to add a third in 2015 when he rode to fifth overall with Buys.
This year Beukes and Heyns will be reunited in Team SCOTT LCB Factory Racing and the former will no doubt be hoping to make it four red jerseys in four years.
But he is hoping to go even one better: “We are looking to step up from what we’ve achieved over the past three years and, after being the top African team, we feel the next logic step is to go for an overall podium (top three). A couple of stage wins along the way would also be really cool,” Beukes said.
Heyns added: “We would like to defend the Absa African jersey and try to finish high up on the General Classification as well: the possibility of an overall podium is definitely on our minds.”
Does riding with a friend make a difference? “Yes. We’re all good mates in the team and it helps the morale so much to have a good time on and off the bike,” said Beukes. “We were both born on mountain bikes so, when it comes to the technical side, we’re both fast riders. That helps a lot because we can either make up time or save energy on the rough stuff. When it comes to climbing we’re also pretty evenly matched so basically our strengths are very similar.”
Heyns concurs: “Matthys is a consistently strong stage racer and always seems to be up there. We have similar strengths and that is what makes us a good team.”
Beukes believes that the 2016 Absa Cape Epic route “looks like it’s the best one yet and I’m very excited about it being a proper mountain biking route”. It seemed to be “right up our alley and I know we’ll be having a good time on some amazing trails”.
Again, Heyns was of a similar mind: “It looks like there is lots of quality mountain biking. I’m looking forward to the increase in trails.”
Both said training had been going well and the anticipated arriving at the start line on March 13 in good condition.
And what keeps them coming back to one of the world’s toughest mountain bike races: “It’s the big show when it comes to mountain bike stage racing and the amount of coverage we get out of that week is incredible,” said Beukes. “Apart from that, it’s pretty cool racing some of the best World Cup racers in the world on home turf.”
“It’s the benchmark mountain bike stage race event in the world and in our back garden,” Heyns said. “It’s become that must do event for any pro mountain bike racer.”
They will be racing on SCOTT Spark RC 900 bikes.