PHILLIMON SEBONA: BREAKTHROUGH SEASON

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PHILLIMON SEBONA: BREAKTHROUGH SEASON

He has featured in major races around South Africa for the last 7 years, and have tasted success at the Magalies Monster, Sabie Experience and the Exxaro category at the Cape Epic. The humble 27 year old rider from PYGA Eurosteel is having one of his best seasons to date, in what could be described as a breakthrough year.

 Hey Phillimon…first up, congratulations on a brilliant season so far! A top 20 in the Cape Epic (and 23rdIn the GC) and a first stage win in a major event – the Sani2C! Thanks so much, yes it’s been a very good year with my partner Piet (Pieter Du Toit). Now that we proved that we could win on the big stage, it changes everything for the future, we have set a new benchmark for ourselves. We know now what we are capable of, and nobody can take that away and it gives us a lot of motivation and confidence going into future races.

Where you eyeing a stage win at the Sani? Yes, driving down there it was my dream to win a stage.  We really wanted to prove to ourselves that we can do it.To be honest I was so motivated to get the win on the previous day as we ended at the Kings Harvest Academy, with whom I’m involved with. It would’ve been great for the kids to see me win right in front of them! I felt good on that day, but had a crash in the closing stages. My derailleur was also bent following the crash…we pushed very hard on the flat, to catch up, and it took a lot out of us but it was just too difficult to make up the time on the terrain.

Well, it worked out in the end and you got your win 24hours later –  how did it unfold?Yes, Matthys (Beukes), Phillip (Buys) as well as Matthew Beers and Stuart Marais kept the pace very high from the start.  They pushed very hard up the tough Iconic climb and even up the short steep climbs. Some of the other guys fell off but my body is built for climbing.

I must interrupt you…how much do you weigh? I weigh 56KG [Editor: That shouldn’t be legal!]

Ok…carry on:Yes coming towards the finish… we actually didn’t plan it really and it actually came as a bit of a surprise, as it was slightly different to the previous year. The next thing I knew we were sprinting. I just told myself this is the end, give it all you can!  I tapped all my energy but we made it!

You & Pieter Du Toit (20) seem to be gelling well in you second season racing together? Yes, we form a good team. During the Sani we proved that we can rely on each other. I am generally strong on the climbs, and on the flats our dynamics work well. This is our second year, and in the first year we couldn’t really understand each other’s riding styles. He always motivates me and he has good a very good cycling mind, very tactical. My background from the academies means I am a diesel enjin…. I can go the whole day. He is from cross country and can drive hard, then relax again. He knows when to push and when to ease, so that helps a lot with race tactics to follow his guidance.

 What are your goals for this season? The next major races for us are the Magoeba in August and the Berg&Bush in October. But the big one we are really working towards is the Wines2Whales – we have ambitions to do very well there. We have the experience now and know we can do well. Going to World Champs is also always a big goal (for the marathon), but multi-day events is where my strong point lies, but I am talking to my coach always though. Usually I suffer on day one, then day two is where I make time up and day three is where I try to really move up the field. So, the longer term goal is to do very well in next year’s Cape Epic. This year I also proved my technical skills on the single tracks around Stellenbosch, which hasn’t been my strong point in the past. On the final day, I was riding with all the front runners up the major climbs so I know I have the legs.

Looking at your bike, what piece of equipment, do you enjoy the most? I loved my recent switch to the Rocket Ron’s – this has made a big difference. They have very nice grip for me and helped me with skills level on single tracks. Schwalbe allowed me to test different types of tyres and these just worked very well for me, they are light, they roll very easy and has great grip.

What do you ride them at? I ride 2.25mm on front and back and usually at 1.8 or 1.7 bar.

Finally, what is your take on development cycling in SA – and what can be done to improve it?We are seeing more guys come up into proper racing level and the numbers look good. The guys have the fitness and the skills, but the gap for me is in the smaller things, the technicalities. How you warm up, tyre pressure and types, even how you line up at the starting line and position yourself. When you are in a good pro team, you study the profiles, terrain and feeding zones and work out your entire race. The development guys now often have good bikes, but not a team to support them with say a spare wheel in case of a mechanical. This is what is often lacking with the development teams, the attention to the finer detail.

PHOTO CREDIT: TEAM PYGA EUROSTEEL