Augustyn secures second chance for pro career, signs with MTN Qhubeka
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Augustyn secures second chance for pro career, signs with MTN Qhubeka

by Shane Stokes at 9:34 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Talented South African returning to strong form after overcoming complications from hip resurfacing operation

John Lee AugustynOne of South Africa’s most talented riders, John Lee Augustyn, appears to be getting his pro career back on track after signing a contract to race with the MTN Qhubeka team next season.

The 27 year old has been curtailed in recent seasons by a hip injury which required a resurfacing operation two years ago, and which forced him to put his career on indefinite hold in May 2012.

However he returned to Europe this season to work hard and, having undergone physical and physiological testing in recent weeks with the MTN Qhubeka team, has inked a contract to race there next season.

“I’m really happy and motivated,” said Augustyn, who is said by the team to be in ‘incredible’ shape. “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.”

Augustyn won the South African national under 23 title in 2006 and placed second overall in the Tour of Japan. He signed for Barloworld and went on to finish third overall in the Vuelta a Asturias in 2007 plus won the mountains classification in the Volta ao Alentejo one year later.

However a crash in the time trial of the Volta a Portugal left him with a broken hip and ended his season. He returned to competition in 2008 and made his Tour de France debut with Barloworld. On stage sixteen he crested the Col de la Bonette in first place, but crashed on the descent when he spectacularly overshot a tight bend. He slid 30 metres down the shale-covered mountainside but fortunately was able to come to a halt, climb back up to the roadside and complete the stage.

The-then 21 year old finished in 45th place in the general classification and was fifth in the mountains competition. He was also eight in the Subida al Naranco and 26th in the Beijing Olympic road race.

After a solid 2009 season, he began a two year deal with Team Sky the following year but later discovered that his hip injury had led to osteonecrosis, a condition which causes the bone to deteriorate. This led to the resurfacing operation in 2011 but, while he signed a contract with the Utensilnord Named team in 2012, he was forced to walk away from that due to difficulties in his recovery.

However things have turned around and after racing in South Africa earlier this year, he moved to Italy to continue his buildup. He has been riding well and placed fourth this month in the MTN Crater Cruise MTB race.

He is both relieved and motivated with his new contract. “I’ve followed the team’s progress this year and I find it very interesting. When I joined Sky as a start up team, they were very innovative and did new things in cycling.

“I see Team MTN-Qhubeka as the same, taking African riders and giving them the best scientific support in all departments to become the best in the world. I’ve seen the support all the back up staff give and can see the riders really appreciate it as it is world class.”

Team Principal Douglas Ryder is looking forward to seeing what he can do. “John-Lee is a super talented South African rider that has seen the absolute highs and lows of cycling. He has ridden every Grand Tour including a top fifty general classification in the Tour de France.”

The team was cautious about signing him due to his previous injury, carrying out those medical tests to make sure there was no risk to the rider by his return. Ryder is satisfied that all is good.

“We have done a thorough check on his health and he is ready and motivated to get back to the highest levels of world cycling again. We are happy we can give him this chance,” he said. “He is very positive for next year and his experience will go a long way in supporting and mentoring our team as we make our bid to race in the grand tours of world cycling.”

Brian Gouldie, MTN SA Chief Marketing Officer said that the team was honoured to have him on board. “There is no doubt that his talent as well as his vast experience will come in handy in the many international races we’ll participate in the next season.”

The team has now completed its lineup for 2014. It features seven international riders including Milan Sanremo winner Gerald Ciolek and former Tour de France stage winner Linus Gerdemann, past Giro d’Italia TT victor Ignatas Konovalovas and the promising climber Sergio Pardilla.

It also has eighteen Africans on board, including world under 23 silver medallist Louis Meintjes and Daniel Teklhaimanot.

One of its big targets for 2014 is to ride its first Grand Tour.

Also see: John Lee Augustyn on his road back to the peloton: ‘At the moment I just feel really, really strong’

MTN Qhubeka for 2014:

Gerald Ciolek (GER), Ignatas Konovalovas (LTU), Sergio Pardilla (SPA), Jay Thomson (RSA), Louis Meintjes (RSA), Johann van Zyl (RSA), Andreas Stauff (GER), Martin Reimer (GER), Youcef Reguigui (ALG), Kristian Sbaragli (ITA), Ferekalsi Debesay (ERI), Tsgabu Grmay (ETH), Adrien Niyonshuti (RWA), Meron Russom (ERI), Jani Tewelde (ERI), Songezo Jim (RSA), Bradley Potgieter (RSA), Dennis van Niekerk (RSA), Jacques Janse van Rensburg (RSA), Jaco Venter (RSA), Martin Wesemann (RSA), Linus Gerdemann (GER), Merhawi Kudus (ERI), Daniel Teklhaimanot (ERI), John-Lee Augustyn (RSA)


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