Famous for surviving one of the most dramatic crashes in cycling history, a long-time South African friend of Team Sky’s Chris Froome told how the Briton’s recent WorldTour successes made him feel both proud and happy.
John-Lee Augustyn, who hails from Port Elizabeth, was prominent especially in 2008-09 when he raced against and beat Froome frequently.
However, he was most famous for his near-fatal fall during stage 16 of the 2008 Tour de France when he crested the Cime de la Bonette in first place before overshooting a hairpin bend and falling about 30m down the mountainside.
Helped back up by a spectator Augustyn, riding for Barloworld at the time, managed to recover and complete the stage in 34th place.
Sadly, due to a recurring hip problem resulting from a crash at the Volta a Portugal in 2007, Augustyn was forced to retire in May 2014.
Now staying near Lake Iseo in Italy, Augustyn works as a tour guide as well as for an online bike shop.
“I was guiding some climbs during the Giro,” Augustyn told In the Bunch. “It was really nice to see the Giro passing through my town and it was really good seeing Chris [Froome]. We are actually close mates.
“I am really happy for him for doing so well in his career thus far,” he said, referring partly to Froome’s hat-trick of Grand Tour titles, only the third time in history this had been achieved.
Despite his own successes earlier in his career, Augustyn said he had moved on from “what could have been”.
“Obviously you do think ‘I could have been there’, but that is life. I am very happy for him. It does take a lot of hard work.
“It goes through my mind all the time, like what if I didn’t crash and break my hip. I could have been there and I was there, but I look forward to new things. There is no point living in the past.
“It [professional cycling] looks easy on the television and it looks like a nice lifestyle, but it is actually very tough and not many guys can do it.
“I take my hat off to him. I am very happy for my teammates and old friends who are still winning.
“But it just shows you that you need a bit of good luck on your side as well.”
Speaking of the 2008 crash Augustyn, 31 but only 21 back then, said he went as hard as he could up the climb, the highest pass in Europe.
“I did not know that at the time,” Augustyn quipped. “I went over first then on the corner I took the wrong line and as I went over I saw it was like a cliff.
“Then I thought ‘I will see you guys in the next life’. Obviously I knew my stage win was over, but I thought about how I would get back up.
“Luckily one of the fans on the side of the road slid down and helped push me back up towards the road.
“I then got a spare bike and worked my way down the mountain to the finish.”
Augustyn said he was surprised to have crossed the finish line in one piece.
“I was very happy to still be walking around. I did not have a single scratch.
“I was immediately flooded with questions by journalists. I didn’t realise it would be so famous or that it was on television.
“I was disappointed I could not win the stage, but on the other hand I actually became famous from the crash. It paid off in a way.”