John-Lee Augustyn (MTN-Qhubeka) suffered a minor setback on his path to recovery from persistent injury. He abandoned the seventh stage of Malaysia’s Tour de Langkawi on Wednesday.
“It was just a combination of the heat and the miles,” MTN-Qhubeka team sports director, Kevin Campbell told Cycling Weekly. “He did the Tour of Gabon. I think it was the combination of the miles and it accumulated to where he is now. It’s the difference between training a lot and racing at this intensity.”
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The South African, who raced two years with team Sky, worked for Eritrean team-mate Merhawi Kudus. Kudus sits second overall at eight seconds with three days to race.
The heat and miles got to Augustyn in his comeback year, however. Today, the riders covered the longest of the 10 stages, 230.1 kilometres up the coast to Pekan. Theo Bos (Belkin) won the sprint while Augustyn sat in the broom wagon behind. He abandoned just 30 kilometres out.
“He wasn’t feeling so good yesterday but we just thought if it was a bit the length or the heat,” Campbell said. “We tried to see if he’d recover or not. He was feeling okay this morning but as the day got longer and the heat got hotter, he just started feeling not so good again. It was really frustrating for us and for him.”
Augustyn, 27 years old from Port Elizabeth, returned to the team car one last time to retrieve water bottles for Kudus and his other team-mates. After he distributed them, he sat up.
The Tour of Gabon in January and Langkawi form part of Augustyn’s return. Though he raced with Sky in 2010 to 2011 and rode the Tour de France, a hip fracture in 2007 upset his career. He underwent surgery to have his hip resurfaced in 2011 but after racing for a second division Italian team, he had to quit and take a break.
After time off in 2012, mountain biking and physiotherapy, he regained power. His home team – Africa’s first professional team – MTN called him up.
“Racing for an African team motivates me. This is an African team with riders from all over Africa,” he told Cycling Weekly this winter.
“I want to return to proper racing, regain my confidence and get back in a Grand Tour, probably in 2015.”
20-year-old Eritrean Merhawi Kudus is establishing himself as a climbing talent and hot property
African team MTN-Qhubeka came away with 15 wins in 2013, including Milan-San Remo. More success is planned for 2014