Track cyclist Jean Spies believes his decision to leave his South African comfort zone contributed in large measure to his now being ranked eighth in the world for the men’s elite 1km time-trial.
“The knowledge needed to be the best in the world is out there. But it is our responsibility to go and fetch it as it will not come to us,” said a delighted Spies, who was ranked seventh up until last week Friday.
The 29-year-old Randburg-born rider stated on his social media platforms recently that he was consistently working on improving his speed, acceleration and skills in preparation for the keirin and sprint events at next year’s Olympics.
“As an added bonus I have delved into the pain cave of the 1km time-trial. It’s my love-to-hate and hate-to-love race and I’m over the moon to now be ranked inside the top-10 in the world for this event.”
He felt achieving this ranking was proof to himself and his team that they were on the right track.
“It’s definitely a further motivating factor for my main races, which are the keirin and sprint.”
Spies, who won the keirin at this year’s national track championships, is currently based at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome, or T-Town, in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania in the USA and will head to Europe later this month.
“June is known as UCI-month here, with six events taking place. My objective [was] to use it as a month-long training camp with a block of racing.
“There are a lot of international riders here and the racing is at world’s level. Thus I’m able to race at the correct level all month while loading up on a solid training month.”
This has been his third year at T-Town and he says he will continue to return in future as he believes it is the best possible place for him to gain experience on and off the bike.
“What I’ll be taking with me will be needed for future racing and adventures.
“Also, as our GIG Sports Agency grows these skills and experiences will be beneficial to our athletes in the near future. In essence we’re doing the hard yards now to grow our future champions.”
Looking ahead to his major goal, which is next year’s Olympics, Spies said every race and each day of training would be a challenge.
“At this point the most challenging part for me is to get back to where I was pre-surgery. It takes time and patience,” said Spies, who had hip surgery from a crash that he suffered at this year’s national track champs.
“Trying to race and play catch-up is difficult, but it also gives me the opportunity to work on some crafty tactics.
“Everything I do now is designed around the Olympics so I need to get some good results in the world cups at the end of the year. So the focus for now is to be as fast as I can possibly be come November.”