Who will ever forget the sight of John-Lee Augustyn tumbling down the side of a mountain during stage 16 of the 2008 Tour de France ? The Tour de France ascended Europe’s highest mountain pass for only the fourth time in its 105-year history, and the 2,802m Col de la Bonette-Restefond almost proved very costly for a young South African.
The honour of reaching the Bonette was previously held by only two other riders: Spain’s Frederico Bahamontes, known as the ‘Eagle of Toledo,’ in 1962 and 1963, and the lesser-known ‘Eagle of the Gorbals,’ Robert Millar, of Glasgow, in 1993.
John-Lee’s own take on his famous crash while descending the climb of Bonette-Restefond was ‘I ended up flying ‘. No sooner had commentator Paul Sherwen uttered the words; “this is a very difficult and dangerous descent,” than the 22 year-old from Port Elizabeth – still on a ‘high’ from having topped the col in first place – disappeared over the edge.
John-Lee Augustyn, 22 at the time, was first to the summit of the Bonette, but misjudged a hairpin on his descent and slid off his bike and down the mountain.He let his bike tumble down the slope as he clambered to safety and was forced to wait for a replacement bike, eventually finishing in 35th place.
Augustyn turned professional with Team Barloworld in 2007 and remained there until 2009 before joining Team Sky. John-Lee never fully recovered from a crash in 2007 in which he damaged the head of his femur and eventually had to undergo surgery in 2011 when he had Birmingham Hip Resurfacing surgery.
He was then instructed to take some time off the bike to allow his body to recover. After itching to get back to racing, Augustyn has spent time training in Italy and has undergone several medical tests with Team MTN-Qhubeka,that he needed to pass before the team would make the decision to sign him.
“I’m really happy and motivated,” said Augustyn. “My family and I have made tough choices and sacrifices in the last few years and now they are paying off. I feel I am back where I belong. To be a professional bike rider is a privilege and I’m very proud to be a member of a team from my own country.”
Douglas Ryder was quick to point out the fact that, “John-Lee is a super talented South African rider that has seen the absolute highs and lows of cycling. He has started all 3 of cycling’s Grand Tour’s which included a top 50 general classification in the Tour de France.