In a dramatic turn of events Louis Meintjes has signed a two-year contract with Lampre-Merida starting in 2016. The highly rated South African climber has been part of the MTN-Qhubeka setup since turning professional in 2013.
Meintjes moves on a two-year deal and will improve the Italian squad's WorldTour roster with the team having plans on the rider improving his standing in stages races and Grand Tours.
This season Meintjes won both the African championships road race as well as the best young rider jersey in the Tour of Oman, the 4th stage and overall classification in the Coppi e Bartali and he rode a debut Tour de France in which he finished fifth on stage 12. He had been expected to re-sign with MTN for the next few seasons with the South African squad telling Cyclingnews that a deal was close to being announced.
However Meintjes, who is currently riding the Vuelta a Espana, will ride in Lampre colours next season.
"I'm really excited to be taking this step up to the WorldTour level with team Lampre-Merida for the next two seasons," Meintjes said in statement that was first sent to Cyclingnews this morning.
"I think it will bring with it lots of new opportunities and the possibility to learn from a very experienced team. One of the reasons I decided on going to an Italian based team is because Italy has become my home away from home."
"Motivation is super high and can't wait for 2016, also for trying to give satisfactions to Lampre-Merida, to the team manager Brent Copeland and to Giuseppe Saronni, to Galbusera family from Lampre company and to Merida company: they demonstrated high confidence in my qualities.
Lampre have been one of the most active teams in the transfer market this season and have looked to sign young and promising talent to add to their ranks.
Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi, Davide Cimolai, Sacha Modolo and a flock of young talent are set to stay next year, while the team have already signed young riders, Simone Petilli for next season and picked up Edward Ravasi for the remainder of 2015.
Meintjes has been on Lampre-Merida's radar for a number of seasons and former MTN staff member – now team manager at Lampre – Brent Copeland, knows the South African rider well.
"Louis is a rider we have always kept a close eye on, we believe in his talent and know that his future career will be one of great value," Copeland said.
"Meintjes will have his space to grow at Lampre-Merida and with our technical staff's immense experience in working with young talented riders such as Louis, will certainly contribute to bringing important results to himself and the team, we have always admired his manner of being patient with his decision making, meaning that he analyses everything in a very mature and professional way, showing that he has a great ability of knowing what he wants for his future, signs of a great champion."
Meintjes was expected to re-sign with MTN for next season, a story that Cyclingnews reported last month having spoken to the rider, his agent and staff on MTN. However Copeland appears to have pulled off one of the transfer coups of the season, taking the talented rider before MTN could ensure the rider inked the contract that they had apparently verbally agreed with him.
For Copeland though the transfer represents the way Lampre hope to develop their burgeoning squad of young riders.
"We believe he is a complete rider and probably one of the most promising GC riders in the peloton for the future, being a natural climber as well as an excellent time trialist, therefore this the area where we will be concentrating on working with Louis. I have personally worked with the well educated and respectful Louis in the past and know his ability, although he has already shown the cycling world what he can do, we believe he still has a huge margin of improvement and this makes it even more exciting for all of us to be working with him in the future."