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The 2013 world under 23 road race silver medallist Louis Meintjes is still just 22 years of age but, having progressed solidly in the first two years of his professional career, he is setting his sights higher for the upcoming season.
Meintjes had a fine second year with MTN Qhubeka this season. The South African rider took a stage plus the mountains and youth classifications in the Mzanti Tour, where he was also second overall.
He was also fifth in the Giro del Trentino and became national elite and under 23 road race champion, as well as national under 23 TT winner.
Keen to keep improving, he has set himself two goals for 2015: victory in Europe, and also riding the Tour de France with his team.
The latter would depend on two things, namely a wildcard for MTN Qhubeka, and also selection for himself. He knows the first is out of his control, but can certainly chase the second via good performances and strong team-work.
“We are supported really well by the team, and the only thing you can do as a rider is to make sure you put the work in so that you are in the right condition on the start line,” he said, speaking to CyclingTips about the Tour.
“I think the second half of the race will suit myself and some of the other climbers in the team. It would be the first time we would go there as a team so it’s hard to put too many specific goals down. But we will definitely look for opportunities like we did in the Vuelta.”
As regards that personal goal of topping a podium, he thinks it’s a logical target. It’s also another step along the road to where he wants to get.
“Ultimately I’d like to become a well rounded GC contender and get to the level of the top guys, so every year it’s making sure that the progression is there,” he said.
“I feel like I am progressing all the time and I hope 2015 will be the first time I can pull off a win in Europe.
“The team is progressing well”
Next year’s MTN Qhubeka line-up will have two distinct strands. The first, of which Meintjes will be part, will be comprised of several climbers. The second will be made up of riders who are strong sprinters and who will be targeting the Classics; these include Gerald Ciolek, who won the 2013 Milan-Sanremo, plus the incoming riders Edvald Boasson Hagen, Matt Goss, Theo Bos and Tyler Farrar.
As general manager Brian Smith told CyclingTips recently, the team would look at the Tour as a race of two halves. The sprinters and Classic riders will go all out to chase a stage win on the flatter days, while riders like Meintjes will be allowed play their own card when the road tilts skywards.
He said that the new roster is something that he is excited about. “I feel like the team is progressing well. Just like I am progressing, I would hope the same happens for the team and it does seem that way now,” he explained.
“With the addition of the new riders, it will hopefully raise the profile of the team more which in turn means we will hopefully be invited to bigger races.”
He and the other riders on the team are currently in South Africa on the first training camp. Many of the initial tactics and race programmes will be worked on there. The camp will also be an opportunity for the various riders on the squad to become familiar with each other, and to work out the best way to work together.
Although Meintjes’ light build and relatively small size will make it hard for him to slot into a lead-out train, he’ll do what is possible when he can. He knows that the bigger riders will be able to reciprocate at other times, using their strength to help the climbers.
“I think the sprinters we’ve brought onto the team are really good when it comes to bunch positioning,” he said. “So, during the mountain stages, they will be a great help in the first few hours of the stages.
“There’s also guys like Serge Pauwels and Stephen Cummings who will no doubt share their experience with myself and the other young guys, in terms of timing attacks and covering the right moves.
“Those things only come through experience and it’s great to have these guys to help us.”
As mentioned, Meintjes took a number of strong results in 2014. He was encouraged by that and is satisfied with the rate of improvement.
“I feel like it was a good progression from previous years. The key is always to build step by step every year. I got some results this year which makes me feel like I have successfully taken another step in the right direction.”