Louis Meintjes will lead Dimension Data’s general classification ambitions at the Vuelta a España this month. After missing out on selection for the Tour de France squad, Stephen Cummings will ride the Vuelta for the first time since 2015.
Meintjes will have support in the high mountains from Spanish veteran Igor Antón and the Eritrean Merhawi Kudus, with Cummings, Ben King and Johann van Zyl to work for him in the earlier part of the stages.
Young sprinter Ryan Gibbons, who rode the Giro d’Italia for the second time earlier this year, will make his Vuelta a España debut, while first-year neo-pro Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier will get his first taste of Grand Tour racing.
Meintjes returned to the Dimension Data team at the start of this season after two years with Lampre-Merida and the subsequent UAE Team Emirates squad. With his return, the team hoped to strengthen their general classification line-up but the 26-year-old has endured a difficult season. As he prepared for the Giro d’Italia, Meintjes struggled to find his stride, an issue that compounded the already challenging year for the team. In the end, already more than an hour down overall, he abandoned the Giro due to illness.
He returned to racing at the Tour of Austria in July and recently finished a creditable ninth at the Vuelta a Burgos. The result was a sign that Meintjes was heading in the right direction ahead of the final Grand Tour of the season.
"I am looking forward to this year's Vuelta a España with Team Dimension Data. It's been a challenging year for the team and for me personally, too, but we have worked hard to prepare well and build up nicely ahead of La Vuelta," Meintjes said in a team press release. "At Vuelta a Burgos I think we definitely showed that we were on the right track as the entire team was riding really well.
"With the same team as in Burgos now heading to La Vuelta, we have some positive momentum going into the race. Certainly, three weeks of racing is a different kind of beast but the goal for me is to be consistent throughout, take advantage when I am feeling good and try to achieve the best GC result possible."
Dimension Data had a difficult 2017 Vuelta a España, with several of their riders heading home will illness. With riders such as Cummings and King in the line-up, as well as Gibbons, the team does have other options for stage victories, but the team said that Meintjes has their full backing. After a choppy 2018 season, directeur sportif Alex Sans Vega says they have 'unfinished business' going into the race.
"The team is really motivated to be part of the action and there is the feeling that we definitely have unfinished business with the 2018 season," said Sans Vega. "Louis has been getting better and better, he is a world class rider and Grand Tours are what he specializes at. We will back him 100 per cent at La Vuelta and we have a strong team to do so."
The Vuelta a Espana starts on Saturday, August 25 and concludes on Sunday, September 16.
Dimension Data for the 2018 Vuelta a España: Igor Antón, Stephen Cummings, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Ryan Gibbons, Ben King, Merhawi Kudus, Louis Meintjes, Johann van Zyl.