Johannesburg – South African mountainbike rider Philip Buys has his sights set on a top finish at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Championships, which take place in Pietermaritzburg in September.

“A world champs in your own country is rare and special. That will be my priority this year,” Buys said in a statement on Friday, which announced his new sponsorship deal with the Scott Sports Group for 2013.

He had a stellar 2012 season, rising from 120th in the global rankings at the start of the year to 42nd in the world after the World Championships in Austria.

Having attended the funeral of fellow Olympic mountainbiker Burry Stander on Thursday, Buys said he wanted to honour his late compatriot by pursuing his career with the same passion and commitment that Stander showed.

“Burry set the pace and created a path for the rest of us to follow,” he said.

“He taught me so much in 2012, especially in the build-up to the Olympics.”

Buys represented South Africa, alongside Stander, in the cross country event at the London Games, where he finished 35th.

The African mountainbike champion, Buys, will kick off his season when he competes in the Cycle Fest in Pietermaritzburg this weekend.

He will then set his focus on the World Cup series in Europe and North America, which starts in May, and will also compete in marathons and stage races during the first third of 2013 as part of his preparation for the World Championships.

“I will compete in the MTN National Marathon Series and I plan to give the Absa Cape Epic a good go too,” he said. – Sapa