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Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) was second on Monte Bondone and 5th overall at the Giro del Trentino.
South African champion shows he can climb with the best on Monte Bondone
Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) was congratulated by his teammates after his second place on the final Monte Bondone stage at the Giro del Trentino and though he did enough to win the best young rider competition, the South African national champion was disappointed to have gone so close to an important stage victory.
Meintjes attacked with five kilometres to go on the spectacular but constant 19km climb of Monte Bondone. He opened a 30-second gap on the group containing race leader Cadel Evans (BMC) and the other favourites, but Mikel Landa (Astana) began a determined chase alone.
With no race radios allowed in the Giro del Trentino, Meintjes had little idea what was happening behind and focused on trying to win the stage. However, Landa gradually got across to him and caught with two kilometres to go. Inside the final kilometre the Basque climber kicked away and opened a hundred-metre gap that allowed him to win alone, 10 seconds ahead of Meintjes.
The South African national champion showed real character by fighting all the way to the line and managed to finish 30 seconds ahead of the overall contenders. He gained 39 seconds on Fabio Aru (Astana) and thanks to six-second time bonus, it was enough to give him the best young rider's white jersey by just three seconds.
Unfairly the jersey was given to Aru on the final podium before Meintjes arrived, but he was officially the best young rider of the Giro del Trentino. George Bennett (Cannondale) was third at 2:47. Meintjes also finished fifth overall, 1:06 behind Evans.
"I'm happy to get second place but I'm also disappointed because I was pretty close to winning the stage," Meintjes told Cyclingnews after taking a drink and wrapping a red towel around his neck.
"This race was a big objective for me this season because I knew the mountain stages and especially the mountain finishes suited me. I was ninth on stage three and that gave me the confidence to try something today. I knew the GC riders would be watching each other, so I went for it."
Despite only being 22 and slightly built, Meintjes will travel to Belgium on Saturday to be part of MTN-Qhubeka's team for Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He showed his one-day race ability by taking second place in the Under 23 road race world championships. At 263km and including 10 nasty côtes, LLiège-Bastogne-Liège will be much tougher but Meintjes is keen to get a taste of cycling's 'La Doyenne'.
"I'm a bit tired now but my forms good and this is a peak moment of my season, so I can't wait to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège," he said.