Philip Buys eyes Rio 2016
02 March 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Mountain bike podcast and this edition is devoted to the talents and the words of one of South Africa’s finest cross country racers. He’s also raced, of course, the ABSA Cape Epic to great success, stage wins there.
The World Champion at that stage Nino Schurter, but this man’s name is Philip Buys, a former South African champion and a man who no doubt has ambitions for this Olympics this year. You want to go to another Olympics don’t you Philip?
Philip Buys: Ja, you know, turning 12 I had a taste of what it’s all about, but didn’t have good races. So I really want to just give it a good go and have a clean race and just ride to my full potential.
GDK: There’s work to be done before then isn’t there?
PB: Ja, definitely, my build up, for me it’s a bit shaky, but my coach, he’s sort of chilled, he’s, all’s going according to plan. I think as an athlete you’re sort of hasty to get there and start beating the guys. But I haven’t really started quality work. I can feel it in the races, especially this one here at Helderberg, we had a few internationals.
So the start was quite fast and that’s what I’m lacking now. I need those four minute and thirty second intervals and we haven’t started with that. I’m getting a bit anxious because you want to peak for Olympics, but ja, we’ve got a bunch of races that we have to qualify. So ja, all is going according to plan still.
How to qualify for the Olympics
GDK: Just explain the qualification, what do you have to do between now and then to get there?
PB: First of all, South Africa has to have a good enough ranking to send two riders. At the moment we’re ranked 11th or 12th and that gives us two riders. But with me not doing Epic, I’m losing 90 points and Matthys missed one of the Cup races now. He’s also actually contributing to the points, so there’s another 60 points. So, you know, shifting the focus to cross country and losing the Epic points, that drops South Africa’s ranking.
So we might end up with only one spot and that makes it tricky for me because at the moment I’m not the first rider. Alan’s riding really well and James is also there. I mean Alan, I think he had a shaky start this time, but he timed his race perfectly and he’s got the patience to get there.
GDK: You’re one of these interesting types you’ve done marathons, you’ve done well in marathons, you’ve done the Epic’s, you’ve won stages in the Epic obviously. Yet this year is particularly a cross country focus. Is it something that’s difficult to make that switch?
Is it difficult to switch between cross country and marathon?
PB: It is difficult to make that switch, if you think of it in terms of sponsors. Obviously Scott and Elsabe and those guys, Epic is a big race for them, it’s very important for them. Matthys and I, with the Odlo guys, we’ve actually shown, I think we’ve got what it takes to do really well there and get the TV time and the podiums.
So it’s not ideal for our sponsors, but then again the guys, we’ve built up a relationship since four years ago and the guys are lenient. I told them, these are my plans and it’s just great. They gave me off of Epic and we’ve got Gert and Arno who joined the team since last year and we’ve been building up the infrastructure.
We’ve got a full time manager, Ruan Lochner, so ja, we will have a team at Cape Epic and we will still get that coverage there. But this year, for me, I told the guys early on, I want to focus, if I’ve still got a shot at Olympics I want to take it.
After 2016, we’re going flat out to try and win Epic and so that’s sort of 2017’s goal. Then I think, I’m still young enough to go for the next Olympics again. Basically it’s also sort of a relief to do three Epics and take one year off and then do another three. So it’s just sort of a bit of a balancing act and getting your sponsors to believe in you.
GDK: Are the World Cups part of your programme this year?
The South African approach to getting to the Olympics
PB: South Africa, the cycling South African guys, they put out a few races that they are going to use as selection races. All of them are local races except Continental Champs in Lesotho and the Australian World Cup. I think it’s the first World Cup that’s also put out as a qualifying race.
So I’ll probably do that one and then after that, if I qualify, I don’t think I’ll do much international travelling. It’s quite demanding on your body, so I’ll rather just stay home and get the proper quality training in.
GDK: Are you training on your own, are you training, how are you doing your training?
PB: In Pretoria it’s quite difficult. I think Arno and I, I think we’re the only pro mountain bikers there. So we sleep late and then when the guys have to go to work in the offices, we’re on the bike. So there’s not a lot of riding partners there. But we try and get together now and then but ja, most of the training is so specific, you can only do the warm up together.
Everyone is sort of on their own programme and intervals. Pretoria has a few sort of, you know, positive stuff and negative things. We don’t have the best riding, but we’ve got the best weather. I know I can train every day and I’ve got a good support structure there and all our sponsors are there. So it’s good keeping relationships going there in Pretoria.
GDK: But your coach is in Cape Town?
PB: My coach is in Cape Town, we communicate via email. I send him my tests once a week, T test and he sends my programme. We just chat on messages and email and now and then a phone call. It was cool seeing him here every time we race in Cape Town area, you’ll do the effort to get out and come out and support.
Before the race I chatted to him, he still had a voice and then afterwards he had a husky voice. Ja, I think we’re going on our fifth year now and he knows what I respond to well. I’ve also learnt to know my body as well and I can also see when I’m doing too much, it’s just about getting that build up perfectly and having the patience.
Buys’ weapon of choice
GDK: You talk about body and mind, what about bike, for 2016?
PB: Ja, bike, as I said, we’re going on four years now with Scott. I think that’s also quite a big part in our success, especially at Epic as well. We know the bikes, we know the set ups, we’ve got the best tyres and we don’t have to jump around on bikes each year, to different brands. We’re confident in the equipment.
GDK: Anything different this year?
PB: This year there aren’t many changes on the bike. I am racing the dual suspension, this Park 29er bike. Even on most of the cross country races in South Africa. But ja, I’ve heard there might be a few changes going into 2017, so we’ll probably see that at the 2017 Epic.
GDK: Just put us through a week of your training. What hours are you doing and what sort of intensity are you doing?
A week in the life of a Pro rider
PB: The beginning of the year, basically everything before now has been sort of longish rides and long intervals, just to get that base end. But we work on 15-18 hours a week and then intervals. Like an interval day would be three to 3.5 hours with an hour and a half of say 10 minute intervals. Just low cadence, high power.
Now we’re starting to go into the important races, I’ll start building up to the shorter intervals, shorter rides, two hours to an hour and a half and four minute intervals, 30 second intervals. Once a week I do a test on the indoor trainer. I send that to my coach and he analyses it and he checks if I can do more or if I should taking it easy.
GDK: I know you’ve got a particular love for a bit of fun on the bike and skills, is that something you still work at and still practice?
PB: I don’t really have exercises specifically put out for that, I’ve been doing a bit of gym work as well that helps with stability and being able to throw the bike around after an hour of cross country racing. But I think that’s something you develop at a young age and luckily I had the right mentors early on in my career. The skill sort of came naturally.
I sort of work my fun rides in when I have recovery coffee rides. An hour and a half easy and then I’ll go up the mountain bike and I think Klapperkop is probably our most technical mountain in Pretoria, or the only mountain there. I still enjoy doing the fun rides, but we have to get the hard work done on the road bikes.
GDK: You talk about gym work and now it’s gone viral, of course Nino Schurter, one of your international team mates session in the gym, his half hour workout. Is that something that you look and say, that’s where we’ve got to be?
Gym work really depends on the rider
PB: Ja, with the 2014 Epic I did with them, we had a training camp beforehand here in Stellenbosch as well, with them. He actually showed me all the workouts and everything. 2015 was a bit of a shaky year for me because I tried to implement everything, all the gym work on top of my training and with my body not being used to it, I think he’s been doing it since a young age, for me to add that onto my training just in a year and expect results, that didn’t work.
So it actually just pushed me over the edge. Last year was just fatigue at all the races and I’ve scaled it down this year. I still do gym work but as I said, I’m more just focused on that half an hour circuit that he showed there, I try and do that as well. Then the heavy gym work, I don’t respond that well to it, I’d rather do the difficult work on the bike. As I said, it’s just dependent from rider to rider and how long you’ve been doing the gym work.
GDK: A year from now and we sit down and have a chat and what would be the one thing you look back in 2016 and say ‘goal accomplished’?
PB: Definitely if I can go to the Olympics again and just have a clean race and not excuses and just being able to say, I’ve been there, I’ve given it my best shot and ja, we’ll take it from there.
GDK: Philip, thanks very much for talking to us. Philip Buys of the SCOTT LCB team, good luck in your goal to get to Rio.
PB: Cool, thanks for all your efforts as well.
GDK: Philip Buys chatting to us, and in fact we’re at the Helderberg Farm and Philip finished in 3rd place in that race and that’s been another edition of our Old Mutual mountain bike podcast.