Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data) has been forced to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia due to illness. The South African rider came into the race looking to continue is stage racing development and had hoped for a high overall place in general classification after success in the last two editions of the Tour de France.
However, the 26-year-old has struggled since the race started in Israel and has never been able match the GC riders in the mountains, losing time consistently throughout the race. He finished 86th in Tuesday’s individual time trial, leaving him 46th overall with five stages remaining.
“It’s obviously really disappointing to have to stop the Giro d’Italia in the final week but my body just doesn’t want to cooperate,” Meintjes said in a statement released by the team.
“I felt my condition was gradually improving during the race and I was looking forward to playing a role at the three upcoming mountain stages but it is just not possible. The team is riding well, Ben (O’Connor) has been very impressive so I know the team will finish the Giro strongly. I will do everything I can to get healthy and come back stronger,” he added.
This was Meintjes’ Giro d’Italia debut after back-to-back eighth place finishes in the last two editions of the Tour de France. In the winter he returned to Dimension Data after two years at Lampre/UAE Team Emirates. With Mark Cavendish targeting the Tour de France and a climber friendly Giro, the three-week Italian race was Meintjes’ primary stage racing target for the season. However, he has struggled to reach his best form all season.
After top-20 rides at the Volta ao Algarve and Tirreno-Adriatico he looked short of form at Catalunya. He finished 20th on GC at the Tour of the Alps but was never able to climb with the leaders in the pre-Giro warm-up race. He lost time on the Giro’s first summit finish at Etna and never looked like being in contention for a repeat of his Tour exploits.
With their pre-race leader now travelling home to recover Dimension Data will focus on stage wins and the defence of Ben O’Connor’s 12th place overall. The 22-year-old has been a rare success in a difficult season for Dimension Data. In March he finished a highly creditable 11th in Catalunya, before going on to win a stage and take seventh overall at the Tour of Alps. He has held a top-twenty position for most of the Giro. This is his maiden Grand Tour.