South Africa’s John-Lee Augustyn admitted he was lucky to escape with his life after a spectacular crash during the 16th stage of the Tour de France Tuesday left the Barloworld racer halfway down a mountain side.
Augustyn crossed the summit of the day’s second unclassified climb on his own after attacking his leading group half a kilometre from the summit.
But moments later, after being rejoined by his group, he misjudged a right hand bend and, despite braking, his momentum threw him over the edge to leave him 50 metres below on the gravelly mountain side.
After dusting himself off and waiting for a new bike he eventually finished in 35th place at just over five minutes behind stage winner Cyril Dessel of the AG2R team.
Augustyn was unhurt, but he admitted he had been lucky not to suffer another nasty break having broken his femur in August last year.
“I was lucky to get away with no injuries,” Augustyn, one of the four remaining members of the Barloworld team which began the race with nine riders, told AFP at the finish line. “Just before I went over the side I thought, ‘shit, I’m going to break something again’ and it’s going to be terrible. I took the wrong line and was just going too fast. I saw the corner coming, and tried to brake, and I hit the corner and went over the side.
“I was lucky to come to a stop again and get back to the top.”
After his spectacular plunge Augustyn had to be helped back up by a bystander, who walked gingerly down the slippery gravel slope to lend him a hand.
One of the South African’s first remarks to a race official who eventually came to his aid seemed to refer to the loss of his bike. It had slid further down the mountain side after he came to a stop.
“I don’t even remember making that gesture,” he added. “All I remember was that the guy I was talking too didn’t speak very good English!”
Two minutes later Cadel Evans, racing in the yellow jersey group of race leader Frank Schleck, just avoided crashing into the motorbike official attending to Augustyn. Evans finished the race unscathed.
Following some solid displays in the mountains Augustyn appears to have a promising future as a climber. But he all but admitted his downhills will need some working on.
“I didn’t have the very best legs at the start (of the stage) but on the climb I got my rhythm back and it went good,” he added. “On the descent, I think I just took a few too many risks.”
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008