Meintjes at the Tour Down Under: Willunga is going to be a big one

Today's stage at the Tour Down Under wasn’t the best but the opening stages were good for the team. Marko got fourth in the first stage and Diego took second coming close to the win. You could see he was disappointed with not winning yesterday which is normal.

Today's stage didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Corkscrew was quite a decent little climb. We went and rode the climb in training so we knew what to expect but the other guys just had better legs. The team did a great job to bring Diego and myself into the final climb. I think both of us were hoping to go better in the group. The race has been very hot and there was quite a bit of wind on the first stage. The wind kept changing and you had to be quite vigilant.

This is a WorldTour race with points at stake so there are guys with really good form. They are nervous and focused on getting a good result. There’s a front group who are clearly a level above everyone else. I remember years ago people always talking about this race as a nice easy way to start the season and get kilometers in the legs in the sunshine but the race is a lot more serious now. The stages are slightly shorter than the big European races but if you don’t come here with super form you’re not going to get a result. The race has been hard.

I’m rooming with Tsgabu during the race and it’s nice to catch up and be working with him again. He has been doing a great job getting the team into good positions. It’s been really good to start the season off early so we can all get to know each rider and how we ride in the peloton as a team. It’s great preparation for the bigger races to come. For now, it’s time to recover and look ahead to the next stages. Willunga is going to be a big one.

I’d like to highlight that this is one of the best organised races I have been to. We’ve been staying in the same hotel with very short transfers to the start of the stages and everything works really well. Staying at the same hotel is great because it feels like you have more time during the day. Usually with other races you get up for breakfast, then hop on the bus to go to the stage, finish the race then hop on the bus to drive to the next hotel and go to bed.

The support on the roads are amazing too. There’s quite a big turnout everyday with hundreds of guys on their bikes and they join us when we ride back to the hotel after the stage. Australians are not known for being shy so they come along for a chat.

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Louis Meintjes is a climber from South Africa who joined the Lampre-Merida team for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He spent the last three season with MTN-Qhubeka where he developed into one of the top up-and-coming riders in the world, riding into a top 10 overall at the Vuelta a España in 2015.