Jean Spies wins Keirin in Prague

 Photo: @jean.spies instagram

Photo: @jean.spies instagram

Current African Continental Keirin Champion Jean Spies (29) won the Keirin at the UCI-accredited GP Framar, which took place in Prague, Czech Republic, from 8-9 September.

This race, as with all the other races that Jean has tackled in Europe since June, was of the utmost importance as he chisels away at earning UCI points in order to qualify for the UCI World Cups starting in October for the 2018-2019 season.

At the time of preparing this story, Jean required a UCI World Ranking of top 36 (Jean is ranked 33rd) to receive an entry into the Keirin and a top 45 (Jean is ranked 40th) for the Sprint.

Jean explains that the criteria to qualify to compete in a UCI World Cup event requires him to have a world ranking and the way to gain a world ranking is to garner UCI points from competing in UCI-accredited races. Jean needs to be in the top 36 riders in the world in the Track discipline to simply qualify.

“I’ve been chasing UCI races over the past months, so every race is important for me right now,” says Jean. “But obviously a win is that much sweeter as it carries more points than a placing. The races in Prague were my last opportunity to make up some points before the closing date. It has been really important because I have been on the cusp of gaining the required qualification, but now I wait and see.”

Spending the last five months abroad to chase his dream of being a professional track racer has been challenging to say the least, as Jean’s commitment to his sport has seen him make it a career with little financial support from sponsorships. He began in the USA in April and from there raced in Japan, Germany and then the Czech Republic.

“The competition is always extremely tough,” he says. “The points are extremely close, and everyone wants to qualify for the World Cups and this is where we can gather these points.” The races have been UCI Class 1 and Class 2 events, attracting a high calibre of athlete.

Jean’s situation has been challenging and he has been taking it day by day. “It’s tough to try and get the correct training and nutrition while trying to find sponsorships. My Manager Brigitte Mileson and I currently work off donations and it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I’m chasing a dream but it’s challenging every day.”

There is a slight glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and Jean has experienced great progress over the past six months. “There have been great stepping stones to get there but we are working with what we have – people have donated time and funding and there is a lot of value to come from this,” he said.

Jean Spies was a high medal earner at the Afcon Track Championships in Morocco in February where he collected a total of six medals – five golds and a bronze medal in the Scratch.