Augustyn dodges disaster after rocketing off road

South African John-Lee Augustyn said he was lucky to escape with his life after a spectacular crash during the 16th stage of the Tour de France Tuesday left him halfway down a mountainside. The Barloworld rider crossed the summit of the day's second unclassified climb on his own after attacking his leading group half a kilometer from the summit. But moments later, after being rejoined by his group, he misjudged a right-hand bend and shot over the edge, leaving him 50 meters below on the gravel mountainside.

By Justin Davis

South African John-Lee Augustyn said he was lucky to escape with his life after a spectacular crash during the 16th stage of the Tour de France Tuesday left him halfway down a mountainside.

The Barloworld rider crossed the summit of the day’s second unclassified climb on his own after attacking his leading group half a kilometer from the summit.

But moments later, after being rejoined by his group, he misjudged a right-hand bend and shot over the edge, leaving him 50 meters below on the gravel mountainside.

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 (Ag2r).

Augustyn was unhurt, but said it could have been worse, having having broken his femur in August last year.

“I was lucky to get away with no injuries,” Augustyn 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.

Two minutes later Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), racing in the yellow-jersey group of race leader Frank Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank), 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’ll need to work on his descending.

“I didn’t have the very best legs at the start but on the climb I got my rhythm back and it went good,” he said.

“On the descent, I think I just took a few too many risks.”