Former professional South African cyclist Peter-Lee Jefferies, who retired in 2014, is delighted to be involved in cycling management in Europe as he adapts to life after racing.
Jeffries said he enjoyed being able to travel the world doing cycling-related work, something that remained his “greatest passion”.
“I’m extremely grateful to be able to live my dream job day in and day out, but I do miss the feeling of routine, training and the motivation of racing.
“It’s a fire that burns deep in most riders and a hard one to let simmer down over time.”
Since retiring, the 35-year-old has acted as manager for the national elite team and started his own bicycle maintenance shop in KwaZulu-Natal.
He was then approached by the World Cycling Centre Africa (WCCA) to take over their coaching and talent-identification programme under the auspices of Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
“We take different groups of riders from all over Africa and bring them to training camps. From there we take those with the most potential at that stage and bring them over to the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland.
“Then there is a three-month campaign of training and races to build them up to the world champs.”
He said he was approached by a colleague of former Danish professional Bjarne Riis to become a sports director for his team Virtu Cycling in Denmark, which is where he is currently based.
During his stint overseas he has also found love.
“I’m extremely blessed to have met my now fiancée through cycling that side. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with Anne. She’s a super outdoors type of person and we have a ton in common, so it was easy to get to know each other and take it from there.
“She’s Danish and a Viking of a lady as she puts me in [my] place when needed. So what’s not to love?”
Jefferies felt the worst part about retiring was trying to find one’s place in the world. He had been racing for over 20 years and it “becomes your identity”.
“Once you stop, a lot of professional athletes – and definitely me included – battle quite a lot with post-career depression of sorts.
“It took a long time before I started to see myself as a normal person or ‘ex-rider’. I wasn’t always the best person to be around coming to terms with that.”
He added that he was “extremely fortunate” to be able to put his energy and experience back into cycling.
Jefferies managed the national team at Tour of Ethiopia and Tour du Rwanda two years ago. A week prior to this he had won bronze in the elite team pursuit at the national track championships, despite being retired.
“I had raced in Rwanda with the national team in my last year of racing, so I was quite happy to sit in the car going up the mountains.
“I think it’s more the excitement of being on the team and feeling proud to put on the national kit that I miss. But that said I was just as proud to put on my national shirt as manager and be able to add a valuable contribution.”
Jefferies felt although he had managed “some supremely talented riders”, usually they received few opportunities to continue to show their value and improve to the highest level.
“They get stuck in SA where they tend to improve at a much slower rate than their talent allows.”
He said standouts for him were Clint Hendricks, Calvin Beneke, Morne van Heerden, Chris Jooste, Jayde Julius, Reynard Butler and Thulasizwe Mxenge.
“These guys, with the right guidance and support, all have great potential to get far more out of themselves, but as I mentioned the correct opportunities are few and far between.
“Clint is the most impressive SA rider I’ve worked with and he only shows a glimpse of his potential here due to the racing not really being hard enough to show just how good he is.”
Jefferies added that Hendricks was the most versatile rider in the country when on form and always raised his game when he received the opportunity to race internationally.
“How he rode during that tour of Eritrea was extremely impressive and definitely highlighted his talent. He could most definitely go to the World Tour with his potential.”
Jefferies said even though he had been out of the SA scene he always kept an eye on what was going on with regards to the young talent.
“I’d say Morne as an outright climber is an untapped talent with huge potential. Jason [Oosthuizen] is a big strong lad with a good engine and is already showing himself to be going places.
“Rickardo Broxham interests me a lot. I think he has an X-factor that makes him a rider definitely worth keeping an eye on. With the right management, and of course will from his side, he could very well go a long way internationally.
“Eddie van Heerden is another that I think should be overseas on a decent team. He is already at an impressive level and it would be good to see what he is capable of if he spent a full year in Europe with a good setup.”
Next for Jefferies is the 2019 season in Denmark and around Europe. He said it was a full-on job and it was not uncommon to do 17 hours a day, seven days a week, back to back.
“I love what I do, so it’s not work. The team has plans to go to the World Tour by 2021 and as the Tour de France is looking to start in Denmark then, Bjarne wants to start with a Danish-sponsored team. But there is still a way until that happens.
“Personally, I would like to go up to the World Tour as a sports director in the next couple of years. That’s a goal, so I’ll do everything possible to reach that. After that? Just try becoming the best directeur sportif I possibly can be at the highest level in the sport.”