Jean Spies was relieved to rack up five titles and six medals in six events under trying circumstances at the African Continental Track Championships which took place in Casablanca, Morocco, last week.
The three-day event, said Spies, was “arranged almost at the last minute”.
“There was quite a lot of confusion beforehand as to where and when the event would take place,” Spies told In the Bunch today.
“Cycling SA wanted to host it in Cape Town and they [their African counterparts] couldn’t afford it, so it ended up getting moved to Morocco. We were only notified of that two weeks before the event.
“It was a bit of a manic situation to try to get everything sorted out in order to go. Luckily Hylton [Belitzky] and Brigitte [Mileson] were able to step in and make the process manageable.”
Morocco was an “odd place to race”, added Spies. “It was cold, grim and it rained quite a lot. We had a day and a half rained out.
“Their track surfaces were also really poor – very bumpy and slow – and Jen Abbott [also in Team SA] crashed during the women’s scratch race as a result.
“That made it challenging for the guys who wanted to go there for times and results, but it was the same for everyone who took part. We had to deal with the situation,” he added.
Spies said their “nerves were a bit settled” after their team won the first two events – the pursuit and the sprint. “It was a nice way to start the champs as a team,” he added.
Spies, who featured in his first World Cup in seven years three months ago, said his main objective entering the Continental Champs was to “make a mark” in the keirin and time-trial events.
He had his sights set on those two events for the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Netherlands at the end of February, Spies said.
“I’ve already qualified for the kilo [time-trial] at the World Championships, so my main objective was to qualify for the keirin.
“I wanted to do well in those two races to confirm my world qualification and to show that I can still excel.
“As an individual athlete it was really disheartening to not have qualified for the Commonwealth Games, yet I achieved the qualification.
“Winning the Continental Champs sort of gave me ‘ammunition’ to win my events of focus,” he added.
The 28-year-old is still waiting to receive confirmation as to whether he has qualified for the keirin, despite having won.
“A continental champion, theoretically, gets automatically qualified for the World Champs,” he said. “But because of the standard of racing in Africa the case has to be reviewed first.”
He was satisfied with his performance regardless, Spies added. “I’m happy with some of the things we tried differently, which paid off. It gave me a different perspective.
“I’m content. It was a stepping stone; the box is ticked and now it will just be about fighting forward,” he added.
Spies returned to South Africa with gold medals in the team sprint and pursuit. Individually, he won gold in the one-kilometre time-trial, sprint and keirin events and he claimed bronze in the 15km individual scratch.