Spies and Smith clean up for SA at African champs | TeamSA - TeamSA

Spies and Smith clean up for SA at African champs

By Mark Etheridge

Jean Spies and Courtney Smith were the big winners at the recent African Continental Championships in Casablanca, Morocco.

Both South African riders rode to six medals in an important fixture on the African calendar which offered a much-needed opportunity to grab international points.

The build-up to the event was far from ideal as the venue ping-ponged between Morocco, Algeria and South Africa before finally coming to settle in Casablanca.

No official SA team was chosen but a self-funded group of riders dug deep to make the trip north.

One of them was Hylton Belitzky, who manages Smith (pictured on the podium above), and decided to get in some riding of his own and ended up with a gold medal of his own in the team sprint!

‘With the event self-funded, the riders that went had goals and meant business.

‘It was very nice to have three of the SA endurance riders selected for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games attending (Steve van Heerden, Joshua van Wyk and Gert Fouche) and riding the team pursuit. The team pursuit is the event that they will be competing in at the Games.

’The men’s points race was a great race to watch. The South Africans were on the attack making it a fast and hard race, Steven Van Heerden won after a sterling performance.

‘The ladies points race was my highlight. The juniors and elites races together. From the gun, Courtney and Egypt’s Ebtessam attacked and took a lap eight laps later. She lapped the other junior girls four times.

When Egypt’s Donia Mohamed Rashwan was on the rivet Courts attacked and Ebtessam had to pull Donia back to Courtney.

‘Ebtessam is the lady from Egypt who competed at the Olympics. But no matter how much she attacked, she couldn’t get rid of Courtney. Plus, Courtney put in more than her fair share of the work. Ebtessam and Courtney shared the work load while Donia was sitting wheel as she was on the rivet. It was amazing to see a junior holding more than her own against two elite riders from the same country.’

For her part Smith, says her Casablanca experience was ‘amazing’.

‘I was extremely surprised at how cold it was, but racing was fun.The track in Casablanca was very bumpy and slow which did not help with lap times, but I made the most of the experience of a new country and velodrome to race in.

‘I’m very grateful for the opportunity to do what I love – my favourite race was the points race where the junior girls raced with the elite women, I broke away with two other elite woman and we managed to lap the bunch twice and earn a few points in the mean time.

‘In the end I finished third overall by just three points, all in all it was a fantastic trip and I’m very grateful  to everyone who helped and supported me, especially my parents and my coach Hylton.’

On to Spies (pictured above centre with Wade Theunissen and Belitzky), who like so many SA sportsmen battles to find sponsorship to compete at the highest level on a permanent basis. ‘As a track cyclist it has been a little difficult to find sponsorship, as the discipline is far from main stream and does not cater for your average ‘weekend warrior” cyclist.

‘Thus my racing is covered by self funding, crowd funding and generous sponsorship from friends.

‘But I have been racing consistently internationally for the last two years going into my third. In doing this I have managed to secure a top 10 ranking in the world in 2016/17 and a top 20 ranking in 2017/18 seasons. All of this was to qualify and prepare for Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately I have been left out of the Team set for Brisbane in April.’

‘It’s a huge blow for me but after many tears, frustrating discussions and interesting opinions with my support team we decided that we would keep pushing forward as the international track season starts in September and the season is in full swing.’

With the to and fro goings-on as to where the Continental Champs would be held there were many logistical problems for cyclists.

‘Here I’d like to thank Brigitte Mileson and Hylton [Belitzky] for stepping up to the plate and made things as smooth as possible for the riders from SA,’ said the Randburg,Johannesburg racer.

‘When we arrived it was a grim day, wet and cold the maximum temperature was about 10 degrees. The next day was pretty much the same. As the track was an outdoor one, we were not able to get onto the track with the wet conditions.

‘Once racing began we managed to win the Team Pursuit by 20 seconds and team sprint by three seconds.’

Unfortunately the rains came down in the afternoon causing an end to most of the afternoon’s session and day two was also rained ou.t

‘Day three started with the Kilo or 1000m time trial as it is also known. As defending champ I knew the pressure was on, luckily I manage to take the win in the event.

‘The last event was the Scratch race this saw myself, Steve van Heerden and an Algerian get off the front. We managed to take a lap on the field, where things became a little tough for me and the two other riders managed to dislodge me. I then had to hang on for third place.

‘The final day of racing for me brought the Sprint and Kierin events. Going into the day I had a good feeling about racing. This hunch turned out to be true with me managing to win both events.’

Despite the Casablanca experience being a tough one there was happiness for Spies.

‘Having the African Championships under my belt has given me the opportunity to race the World Championships in Apeldoorn, in Netherlands at the end of February as continental champion.

‘As a lifestyle choice, the career of a pro cyclist is far from easy or conventional and in my personal opinion sometimes even absurd and crazy, but when one is called to chase a dream, we chase it with everything we have. Although the path has been far from easy it is far from done.’



1.SPIES Jean (RSA)

1.SPIES Jean (RSA)
2.GALDOUNE Ahmed Amine (MAR)

Time Trial
1.SPIES Jean (RSA) 1:10:268
2.THEUNISSEN Wade (RSA) 1:13:601
3.SASSANE El Khacib (ALG) 1:13:946
4.BELITZKY Hylton (RSA) 1:14:575
8.DE WET Kyle (RSA) 1:17:897

Points Race
1.VAN HEERDEN Steven (RSA) 66
2.FOUCHE Gert (RSA) 51
3.VAN WYK Joshua (RSA) 37

1.CHALEL Yacine (ALG)
3.SPIES Jean (RSA)

Individual Pursuit
1.FOUCHE Gert (RSA) 4:54:054
2.EL KOURAJI Mohcine (MAR) 4:58:527
3.VAN HEERDEN Steven (RSA) 5:04:890
4.VAN WYK Joshua (RSA) 5:10:582

Team Sprint
1.SPIES Jean / BELITZKY Hylton / THEUNISSEN Wade (RSA) 1:07:297
2.BOUZIDI Mohamed / KARRAR Ayoub / SASSANE El Khacib (ALG) 1:10:930
3.EL KOURAJI Mohcine / ABDERRAHIM Zahiri / GALDOUNE Ahmed Amine (MAR) 1:13:437

Team Pursuit
1.VAN WYK Joshua / SPIES Jean / VAN HEERDEN Steven / FOUCHE Gert (RSA) 4:42:850
2.EL KOURAJI Mohcine / MRAOUNI Salaheddine / ABDERRAHIM Zahiri / GALDOUNE Ahmed Amine (MAR) 4:57:819
3.HADJBOUZIT Karim / BOUZIDI Mohamed / LALLOUCHI Ismain / SASSANE El Khacib (ALG) 5:12:541


1.ZAYED AHMED Ebtissam (EGY)
2.ABBOT Jennifer (RSA)

1.ZAYED AHMED Ebtissam (EGY)
2.EL HAYANI Fatima Zahra (MAR)

Time Trial
1.Jen Abbot (RSA)
2.Elisa Gianchino (RSA)

Points Race
1.ZAYED AHMED Ebtissam (EGY) 63
3.SMITH Courtney (RSA) 42

1.ZAYED AHMED Ebtissam (EGY)
3.SMITH Courtney (RSA)

Team Sprint
1.ZAYED AHMED Ebtissam / MOHAMED RASHWAN Donia (EGY) 52:123
2.GIANCHINO Elisa / ABBOT Jennifer (RSA) 52:769
3.BENAJI Mounia / EL HAYANI Fatima Zahra (MAR) 56:234


1.SMITH Courtney (RSA)
3.BENZEKRI Fatima Zahra (MAR)

1.SMITH Courtney (RSA)
3.BENZEKRI Fatima Zahra (MAR)

Time Trial
1.SMITH Courtney (RSA) 42:104
2.BARHRAOUI Hakima (MAR) 45:385
3.ES-SAD Siham (MAR) 46:105

Individual Pursuit
1.SMITH Courtney (RSA) 3:00:164
2.ES-SAD Siham (MAR) 3:03:927
3.BARHRAOUI Hakima (MAR) 3:17:298