John-Lee Augustyn is back home in South Africa after a long season on the road, but after meeting his new Sky teammates at the team's headquarters in Manchester, he's already enthusiastic about racing in 2010.
Augustyn signed for Sky after two years with Barloworld. When the team folded at the end of 2009, the South African was picked up by the new British super squad along with Steve Cummings, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome. Having met his new teammates for the first time, Augustyn is pleased with what he's seen so far. "It was awesome. Meeting the team and the management the riders, it was all well over my expectations but the structure of how everything is going to work next year was the biggest thing for me and it was so impressive," he told Cyclingnews.
As for his racing programme, details are yet to be ironed out but one thing Augustyn could confirm was that he'd focus on the smaller stage races as well as improving his skills against the clock. "I know I can improve so much as a rider," he said. "We've talked about my programme a bit but to win smaller stages races you need to be able to time trial well. There's a lot to improve on but I think I've found the right environment to do that here."
Sky's Scott Sunderland, who has been crucial in the team's recruitment of riders, believes that Augustyn has the key ingredients needed for success at the top level. "We noticed the talent John-Lee is harnessing, but also that technically he has never been taught much. That's where the headroom with him lies. With the right guidance and instructions, John-Lee can grow immensely as a bike rider. It's one thing to have the talent, but tactical insight is another. That's where we can help John-Lee during the coming season and see where he takes it."
After training in South Africa for a few weeks, Augustyn will return to Europe in early January and then train in Spain at the team's first training camp. With so many former Barloworld riders involved, Augustyn believes the transition into a new team has been seamless. "It helps that so many Barloworld riders are going to be involved for next year. It makes it an easier transition, but it also helps that they're all good riders too."
Augustyn had a difficult year in 2009. Despite some strong performances at the Giro d'Italia, he was plagued by injury and sickness during the race. "I was trying to get in breaks all the time, but I didn't have any luck. I had some problems with my leg during the year, but I'd ridden a lot of races."