Original Article by Brigitte Mileson
An inside view to athletes…. Almost like a food critic.. All opinions are my own.
Who is Jean Spies…….
This sounds terrible, but I have been struggling to remember when I first met him. I knew and worked on his father first and then he became one of my clients as well. When I say worked on, I mean sports massage, because that’s what I do.
I recall helping with his shoulder injury as massaging and flushing the area is a great promoter of healing but it wasn’t until about one year ago I actually got to know him. Some people say he is an incredible guy, others say they don’t really know much about him, others say they find him a little brash and loud, but some love his sense of humour. What I am going to tell you is that, in my opinion all of it is true.
Jean first came across to me a little abrupt, maybe slightly arrogant, but a seemingly happy, genuine guy. As we spent a bit more time in each other’s company either during the regular weekly massage session or at the races, I began to see a different side to him. A side not many people would see unless they took the time to see it. Jean is an incredibly private person. He likes to keep all the aspects of his life separate. Not many people know how much he actually does and what he is involved in, so here is a short and sweet description. Other than riding all bicycles, road and track and mountain bike, Jean is in fact a very religious man, and has several different yet close groups of friends with whom he shares his time.
He works part time at Design in Motion bicycle store building bikes and doing setups, he instructs classes at Watt Lab twice a week, he helps his father with his business and if that isn’t enough he fits in two to three training sessions pretty much every day.
When I asked him why he keeps things separate? His answer to me was “to keep life simple.” Sounded strange to me initially, but if you think about it each different area of your life makes you who you are, if you identify what makes you happy you become a whole person. Those different areas don’t necessarily have to overlap to have more or less meaning. Interesting theory, I am sure one that can spark some debate.
Recently Jean gave up personal time to help out at a track development training Camp in Durban, he doesn’t receive monetary compensation for this, however his excitement and softer side showing with simple things like teaching the youngsters how to ride rollers was clearly visible.
Jean does likes things done a certain way, hell, he apparently even likes his coffee made in a certain manner. He proudly says he is ADHD and OCD. Meaning he likes things perfect but only until he is distracted with something else. That’s why he is such a great track cyclist. ‘Maximum perfection in a short amount of time.’ This proven by having twelve National titles and multiple podiums, including ones overseas by the age of 26.
When I asked him about his successes, although proud of them his reply was, “You are only as good as your last race.” A comment I have become accustomed to in the cycling world.
Jean has gone through a relatively trying three years. A crash saw his shoulder dislocated, but it shouldn’t have been that bad right? Wrong, eventually after multiple dislocations he eventually underwent surgery. As any athlete knows, any injury plays havoc on your mental state and your trust of your body to perform. He battled during this time, with the desire to ride but the unknown of how his shoulder would hold up. Eventually racing competitively at SA Champs last year renewed his desire to race, but not only race, to race hard and taste victory again.
Victory came but not where he expected. He competed in the Omnium Champs towards the end of last year. This is an event where you have to consistently do well in all six events to win. It is pretty tactical because there is a whole lot of points involved. Jean has always classified himself more as an endurance rider not a sprinter, so winning the Kilo – a sprinters race, came as a bit of a surprise. He also did incredibly well in the flying lap, 2nd by splits. These two events are short and fast. The Kilo is literally ride as hard as you can for one kilometre and the fastest man wins. The Flying lap is same principle just shorter. 250m only.
This surprising result was possibly the best thing for him, as he saw it as new challenge and it gave him the desire to compete and get to the highest level of racing in the world again. A desire that had been wavering due to not only injury but also politics.
Jean has in the last three weeks, has gone about privately funding a trip to African Continental Championships in Morocco, as Cycling South Africa does not have budget to send a team. Why go through all the fuss of getting to Morocco for African Championships? As African Continental Champion you gain automatic entrance into World Championships and as Jean explains with excitement, he would get to race on one of the best wooden tracks in the world, against the best in the World, what could be better than that?!
What are the chances of Jean succeeding at African Continental Champs? In my personal opinion, being privy to the amount of preparation he has done and dedication he has shown, I say he stands as good a chance as anyone, if not more because he has talent and experience to call upon.
Like him, don’t like him, but as an athlete he has proven to be one of the best in the recent past and who knows what the future holds for him.
He has an athlete page on FaceBook which he is updating daily about his journey and racing especially at the moment in Morocco. This will hopefully continue with an adventure of racing at World Champs. Feel Free to check it out. – Jean Spies Track Cyclist.
Best of Luck Jean!