Track rider had hoped to compete in Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this year

Jeanne Nell, one of South Africa's top track cyclists, has died in hospital from head injuries sustained when he crashed during a keirin race at the Bellville Velodrome in Cape Town last night.

Nell, who was the reigning national keirin champion and had won titles in other events including the individual sprint, represented his country at the Track World Cup in Manchester last year and was hoping to qualify as part of the men's sprint team for this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Tributes were led by national governing body, Cycling South Africa, which described him as "a true gentleman and a true champion of the sport."

Its president, William Newman, who is also a track cyclist, said: “The track cycling community is a close community, we’re all like family.

"This is very sad news and we have lost a family member, who was a great role model and a true gentleman.”

Cycling SA Track Commission Director Johan Smith, a friend of Nell's, added: “South Africa’s cycling community today mourns the loss of not only one of its top sprinters, but even more so the loss of one of its most beloved sons.

"Jeanne will be missed for much more than his cycling talent. He was a true champion, and led by example, both on and off the track.

"Larger than life, he stole so many hearts with his boyish charm and exuberance.

"This is indeed a very, very sad day.”

Nell is the second top South African rider to suffer an untimely death in a little over 12 months.

In January last year, Burry Stander, who finished fifth in the cross-country mountain bike event at London 2012, was killed when he was hit by a taxi as he headed home from a training ride.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.