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MILAN (VN) — John-Lee Augustyn returns to the professional peloton with team MTN-Qhubeka next year after a “heartbreaking” journey. The South African rode for Barloworld and Sky and has raced all three grand tours, but hip problems forced him to give up.
“I saw Chris Froome going at the top at the Tour de France. It wasn’t easy,” Augustyn told VeloNews. “Mentally it was hard, I was struggling because I could not ride at the same level as before. I had to stop to avoid hating cycling.”
A crash in the 10th stage of the 2007 Volta a Portugal started it all. Augustyn fractured the left side of his hip. It healed and he returned. He raced at the 2008 Tour de France and placed 45th. Many fans probably remember him crashing and sliding down the side of the Col de la Bonette and clawing his way back up to the road.
However, something was not right with his hip. At Sky, doctors discovered the 2007 injury caused part of the bone to deteriorate. Augustyn underwent hip surgery in 2011 and switched to second division team Utensilnord-Named for 2012, but he still suffered. He had to quit and take a break. He said that it was “heartbreaking” but that he needed it both mentally and physically.
The now 27-year-old from Port Elizabeth was off the bike for most of the year. He and his brother opened and operated Augustyn Brothers bike shop. However, he said that his body healed and became balanced with strength training. He began mountain biking, regained his strength, and rediscovered his passion.
“I started talking to [MTN General Manager] Doug Ryder and began getting excited about returning,” Augustyn said. “I was going better and better on my mountain bike and tests in Switzerland showed that I was strong enough to return.”
Augustyn sold his bike shop to refocus entirely on his return to the professional peloton. Ryder will ease him into it. He begins with Gabon’s Tropicale Amissa Bongo in January and will race in Malaysia’s Tour of Langkawi in February before returning to cycling’s heartland in Europe.
“I’ve done very little road races, I did a few local ones in Port Elizabeth. I’ve done mountain bike races, which are harder than most bike races,” he said. “MTN is supporting me well, though. The team is giving me proper training and proper racing. I’ll be looked after on the bike.”
He would rather talk about racing and Africa’s first professional team than crashing. If he does fall again, he risks shattering part of his hip. He said that’s the case for many professional cyclists riding around with metal pins or plates in their bodies.
“MTN, a real African team, inspires me. Team Barloworld had a South African sponsor [and] South African cyclists, but this is a true African team with riders from [all] over Africa. It motivates me,” Augustyn said. “I want to return to proper racing. Regain my confidence and get back in a grand tour.”
The post Healthy Augustyn returns to the peloton with MTN-Qhubeka appeared first on VeloNews.com.
Men’s Sprinter of the Year: Marcel Kittel
Yes, he looks like an actor from the front, that hair so perfectly styled and blond, that face carved from a block of stone.
But it’s his backside the sprinters are learning to get used to; they’ve seen a lot of Marcel Kittel from behind. After a monstrous campaign across France in July, Kittel is a star now, and one who looks the part.
“Four! I can’t believe it,” Kittel said after winning the final Tour de France stage this year. “It was a dream of mine to win on the Champs Élysées and now I’ve done it. I’m so proud — I started my sprint at 250 meters and pushed 1 million watts, and in the end, it was enough.”
Four, indeed. The big German wasn’t exactly a surprise — he’s been on the cusp of this sort of greatness for more than a year now — but any time any sprinter demonstrates control over Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) the way Kittel did, it’s a revelation. In fact, it’s not something the sport has seen happen since the Manx Missile exploded onto the scene.
Kittel won the Tour’s opening stage into Bastia and was rewarded with two things: his first win at the Tour, and a yellow jersey.
Much is made of rides through a season: who was there, who wasn’t there, who was training, who was injured, who was flying. But the Tour is the Tour; no one uses the Tour as a tune-up. That’s how the sport knows Kittel is the real thing. The German strongman gathered 16 wins this year, including stages at Paris-Nice, the tours of Oman and Turkey, and Scheldeprijs, and he won the overall at the Tour de Picardie.
He suffers on the hills terribly, but is so big and strong that it now appears that any time the road is flat into the finish, Cavendish and the rest will have one-million-watt competition.
Women’s Sprinter of the Year: Giorgia Bronzini
No one can close a stage quite like Giorgia Bronzini. The Italian stuck with the thinning peloton during the first stage of this year’s Route de France, while riders dropped off the back, as the women entered the 3.5km finishing circuit. With 150 meters to go, Bronzini opened her sprint and took the win by a bike length. Her form perfect, Bronzini again dominated the bunch sprint on stage 2, and the day after that on stage 3. For the next three days, Bronzini repeated her performance, finishing the Route de France with six straight stage victories and setting a new record for consecutive stage wins in professional women’s cycling.
The world road champion in 2010 and 2011, Bronzini has been racing professionally for a decade and is one of the most experienced riders on the newly formed Wiggle Honda team. “I’m bringing experience, but also an Italian style. I like to stay in a team where the riders are relaxed and enjoy each other’s company,” Bronzini said.
The change has been positive for Bronzini, who took stage wins in seven of the nine stage races she started this season. With the strongest sprint in the women’s peloton and a solid team riding in her support, there’s reason to expect more incredible finishes from Bronzini.
The post Velo Awards: Marcel Kittel, Giorgia Bronzini Are Sprinters of the Year appeared first on VeloNews.com.
Back in the day, say 2011 or so, any conversation of the Tour de France was synonymous with the Schleck brothers.
The Luxembourgers were front and center in the quest for the yellow jersey, and they made history as the first brothers to share the podium in 2011.
Today, after a string of injuries and racing bans, not to mention questions about their professionalism, all that talk of the yellow jersey seems like a very long time ago.
New faces dominate the banter about the yellow jersey. Chatter about the Tour centers around Sky, Chris Froome, and a growing horde of young talents, led by Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
For 2014, the Schlecks and their newly branded team, Trek Factory Team, the coming season is critical to regain their place among contenders for the yellow jersey.
“For the Schlecks, and for us, it will be a challenging season,” Trek general manager Luca Guercilena told VeloNews. “It’s been a few years since they were at the top level. We believe they can come back.”
Time to prove it on the road
The mantra that the Schlecks, especially Andy Schleck, will once again be the Tour rider that he once was, seems to be wearing thin.
Ever since his fateful crash in heavy crosswinds during the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné, when he was badly banged up and fractured his sacrum, Schleck has been a shadow of his former self.
Following his breakout second place in the 2007 Giro d’Italia at the ripe age of 22, behind the now banned-for-life Danilo Di Luca, Schleck became cycling’s prince in waiting.
It was only a matter of time before the happy-go-lucky Schleck would win the Tour. And he came tantalizing close, riding to second in three consecutive Tours from 2009-2011.
Though he was later awarded victory in the 2010 Tour following Alberto Contador’s positive for clenbuterol, Schleck still wants to win one on the road.
Yet the recovery from his crash has taken longer than he or anyone could have ever expected. The 2012 season was a wash, and he raced only at the Tour of Beijing late that season in what became a string of DNFs and abandons that border lined on embarrassing.
Dogged by biting pain that made it uncomfortable to sit on the bike, let alone train effectively, his efforts at a comeback were littered with setbacks.
Some started to question Schleck’s professionalism, and a few wondered out loud if he would ever return to the top.
Yet a determined Schleck made it through the 2013 Tour, riding to a season-best 20th, and showed glimpses that the worst is behind him. At least that’s what Trek and Guercilena are banking on this season.
“For Andy, he has not been at his level since 2011. I think he knows that 2014 is a big season for him. He realizes he must show the peloton where he is,” Guercilena said. “That’s the only way for a rider. I say to the guys, ‘there’s not a lot to say, just speak with the pedals, because otherwise you’re just talking.’”
Schleck seems to have taken the advice to heart, and has been quietly working during the fall to enter the 2014 season on a much higher level of fitness and depth that he was clearly missing this year.
And then there’s Frank
While Andy is still struggling to come back from his career-threatening injury, Frank has had his own demons to fight.
The elder of the Schleck brothers tested positive during the 2012 Tour for xipamide. Schleck, who had previously ran afoul with contacts with Operacion Puerto ringleader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, swore up and down he was not taking anything purposefully.
The Luxembourg cycling federation bought it, and handed down a reduced, one-year ban. That kept him out of the 2013 Tour, but he was still hoping to return to racing, including a run at the Vuelta an España.
A spat between former team owner Flavio Becca over Schleck’s contract, however, saw him off the team for the remainder of the year. The team has been opaque about why Schleck did not return — one source said it was over money — but the upshot is that Schleck has not raced since the 2012 Tour.
“I think Frank will have a good season. He’s excited to be back,” Guercilena said. “He wanted to race this season, but for many reasons, he could not, so he will be focused on 2014.”
According to Guercilena, he’s not seen the Schleck brothers as motivated as they are now in several seasons. He said they are more motivated than ever to regain their position among the peloton’s most reliable performers in the Ardennes and the grand tours.
“I expect big results from them,” he said. “They’re both motivated to make it back to the top, to show everyone where they belong.”
And the racing calendar? Guercilena was evasive, hinting that even the Giro d’Italia could be in the cards, but would only confirm that the Tour will remain the central focus. The team is meeting this month in Spain to hammer out a structure for the upcoming season.
“We have not discussed a specific calendar yet, but for sure we know that the Tour is the race that they have shown where they can be on the podium,” he said. “That will be the goal for the season. We still have to discuss how to arrive there.”
Frank is confirmed to mark his return at the Santos Tour Down Under in January.
The pressure is on
Tongues will be wagging if the Schlecks cannot manage to return to form. Some will be wondering if the Schlecks will be able to race with the best in “new cycling,” a suggestion that infuriates both of them.
Age is becoming an issue for both. Andy has always been the young kid on the block but he turns 29 next season, while Frank will be 34 in April, and his best years could well be behind.
In 2014, there will be plenty more reasons to have pressure to step up.
Trek stepped up to save the Leopard team following the departure of major sponsors, first with Nissan in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, and then RadioShack, which did not extend its title sponsorship at the end of this season.
Luxembourg construction magnate Flavio Becca, who formed the team built around the Schleck brothers in 2011, happily washed his hands of the expensive project, selling the UCI WorldTour license to Trek for an undisclosed amount of money last fall.
Guercilena is downplaying the team’s pressure on the Schlecks, however, insisting that the team’s primary focus will be built around Fabian Cancellara and the team’s highly successful classics program, as well as the development of promising young talent such as Bob Jungels, and the Van Poppel brothers.
“If everything goes well, we can be quite competitive. Yet as we know from 2012, a couple of things can go wrong and put an end to all your plans,” Guercilena said, referring to the washout season in which Cancellara crashed out during the classics weeks before the Schlecks unraveled.
“It’s always better to have two arrows to shoot than one,” he said.
Also, Guercilena downplays the notion that it could be now or never for the Schlecks.
“The pressure is higher and higher, especially since they have not been at their level since 2011, but on the team, we focus on the work and we try to avoid this type of pressure,” he said. “We will give him confidence and support, and we expect that they will put the work into the pedals. It will be a big season for both of them.”
So what’s the best-case scenario for the Schleck brothers? For Guercilena, it would be putting them back into the position where they were in the front row for the fight for the yellow jersey rather than just being sideline players.
“Andy and Frank have been on the podium, and they did it together in 2011, so the next step for them is to win the Tour,” he said. “I believe if they are both in the right condition, and stay healthy, they can be in the fight for the Tour. That would be super for us.”
Talking big is one thing. Guercilena, the Schlecks, and everyone else know it’s time to prove it on the road.
The post Trek holds out hope for a Schleck comeback in 2014 appeared first on VeloNews.com.
- The bike is an old Raleigh Olympian I picked up during college and converted. Currently its running as a single speed("magic gear") with some cheap spacers I made. It has a front brake, but I wouldn't trust your life with it. . .
Please let me know if this link to pic does not work.
Frame/Fork/Stem: Raleigh Olympian(frame says Reynolds 502)
Crank: Truvativ single speed
Pedals: Animal PC blue
R Wheel: Shimano Exage hub laced to Trek Matrix rim. . . off an old Trek 1200 I beleive?
F Wheel: Shimano 600 hub laced to Wolber GTX rim
Brakes: Cheap front caliper with a "modified" BMX lever
Bars: Orgin-8 track bar
Looking for $150 obo. . . would gladly trade(all or parts) for a cheap 29er disk wheelset, MTB disk brakes, SS MTB crank set, 29er tires(2.5"ish). . .I would even be able to put some cash on my end if needed.