Louis Meintjes takes a quick jog at the top of La Super Planche

"Us Africans love to run" Meintjes said.

by Caley Fretz

Primoz Roglič may be a fan of the 6am Tour de France run, but Louis Meintjes has just one-upped him with a quick jog across the finish line on La Super Planche des Belles Filles.

The moment came near the top of the fiercely steep Super Planche, when a bit of gravel kicked up and fooled the South African’s Shimano Di2 rear derailleur into gaining sentience, shifting itself and rendering it unusable. That’s a problem at 24% on nasty gravel and Meintjes was forced to do what no rider has done since Chris Froome: Run up a mountain in the Tour de France.

“Yeah, us Africans, we love to run,” Meintjes said, laughing at the comparison to Froome’s iconic run up the side of Mont Ventoux. “I ran in the end, 50 metres, maybe even 60 metres. It was hard as I was almost losing a shoe too.”

Meintjes was on track for a top finish, though he had been distanced by the leaders, but ended up crossing the line 51 seconds back. So steep were the final meters that he kept pace with Nairo Quintana despite being off of his bike.

“I think it must have been just a bit too bouncy, or some gravel got stuck in the rear derailleur and it went into the crash mode setting,” Meintjes said. “Already, at that moment, you needed special gears to go up as it’s that steep.

“Once it started shifting, I couldn’t do much. I was close enough, so either fixing it or running it [would do the job]. It was basically just going to be the same time as I’m not a mechanic so maybe it was quicker to run.”

Crash mode disengages the Di2 derailleurs electric motor so the derailleur shouldn’t shift on its own when activated, and the derailleurs are used in cyclocross and gravel events, which are far rougher. Regardless, clearly, some derailleur gremlins manifested as Meintjes approached the finish.

Meintjes didn’t bite when asked if the gravel near the finish, which was composed of fine, chalky rocks, belonged in the Tour.

“There are a lot of unnecessary things in my opinion: flat stages, bunch sprints,” he laughed. “So I guess this [the gravel] is just part of racing. Today wasn’t so bad actually. I mean, it’s a bit of gravel at the end of the race and it makes the race a bit more special. If I had to complain it would be more about putting cobbles in the race.”

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