National track cycling endurance star, Jean Spies, is relishing the opportunity to compete at the Westbourne Oval in Port Elizabeth for the 2016 SA National Track and Para-cycling Championships from 28 March-1 April, followed closely by the SA National Omnium Championships on 2-3 April.
Although racing at his 12th National Champs, Spies will be back to bring his magic to the track when he returns home from the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in London.
‘SA Champs is going to be great this year, and very interesting. It takes place on the same track that I took my first Elite title on, so it’s pretty special. It’s always cool going back to the Westbourne Oval – it’s going to be a great showdown and the stakes will be high.’
Spies took part in the African Continental Track Cycling Championships last month, where he took the titles for the One Kilometre Time Trial and Points races.
‘Africa Champs was quite an experience, especially because I had no idea who I was going to be racing against,’ he said.
The African Continental Track Champs allow individual entries due to the development nature of the track discipline in Africa. Spies was committed to go and made a special plan to ensure that he could raise the necessary funds, which reflected the level of commitment to his career.
Spies mentioned that the concrete track was uneven at times, and the Northern Hemisphere winter made for cooler temperatures and strong winds. ‘It was crazy with conditions like that and then also riding against others who you don’t know their level or speed. It was such an experience though. I had a goal to try to take the Scratch Race and the Kilo Race. I won the Kilo by just two seconds, but that was 15 minutes after the Points race. It was really nice to win the Points race, and I felt that I had it in me because I’m an endurance rider. In the Scratch Race there was a bit of a crash and a pile-up, which caused the race to stop,’ he said.
Cycling South Africa President William Newman, who also serves as President of the CAC (Confederation for African Cycling) Track Commission, explained that by virtue of being crowned the African Champ in the 1Km TT, Spies would have qualified by name for the World Champs. But South Africa had already qualified a spot in the one kilometre TT, in addition to spots in the Individual Pursuit, Points and Scratch races.
‘Jean motivated his case for selection to the Track World Champs in the 1KM TT and Scratch races, and on the basis of his African Champs showing and his ability he was granted the selections,’ said Newman.
The 26-year-old is ecstatic to be going to the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in London and remembers dreaming about the days that he would one day be racing against some of the greatest track riders on the planet.
‘The Worlds story is quite an emotional one for me,’ said Spies. ‘Four years ago I was fortunate enough to watch some of the London Olympic Track races and I said to myself, ‘I want to be there’.
‘Four years later, I am on my way to the same track, and although its not the Olympic Games, I am going to the World Champs to race the best that I can against the fastest in the world, which is something quite special,’ he said.
Picture of Spies courtesy of Craig Dutton