Meintjes came into the race unsure of his form after a disappointing and frustrating start to the season. The South African says he has been training just as hard as previous years but his good days have been hit and miss.
"I’m a bit uncertain. Training has been a bit up and down. Some days have been really good and some bad. Yesterday I felt good, so I’m at least a little bit confident," Meintjes told Cyclingnews at the start of the opening stage of the Tour of the Alps.
“I’ve definitely been working hard so it’s not like that’s lacking. That’s the really frustrating part; sometimes your body responds, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s not like I’ve been sick or having crashes or any major disruptions. It’s really frustrating."
Meintjes went on to place 22nd on the opening stage, which featured a long second-category climb in the finale. He lost just under a minute to most of the general classification contenders.
The five-stage race is Meintjes' final preparation event ahead of his Giro d'Italia debut in just a few weeks’ time. He will head to his European base of Andorra when the race reaches its conclusion on Friday, and from there he and the team will make the call whether or not to go to altitude before the Giro starts in Israel on May 4. He remains hopeful that the form will come together and he can pull out a good result.
“If the next few days go well or if I’m feeling like I did [the day before the race] then it could be a really good Giro,” he said. “When you go to the Tour you’ve got half a season in you and you’re pretty certain where you are. This is a bit earlier so there’s just that uncertainty.
"It looks pretty good, especially for me, on paper, with all the uphill finishes. There are still the time trials but, in general, I think that it’s a route that can suit me."
Since making his Grand Tour debut in 2014, Meintjes has two 8th place finishes at the Tour de France and a top 10 at the 2015 Vuelta a España. The field will be tough at the Giro d’Italia but the 26-year-old is hoping to improve on his Tour result.
"I don’t think it’s worth any less than a top 10 at the Tour de France," said Meintjes. "It’s still the Giro and it’s WorldTour racing so you’d be happy with a top 10 but obviously we’re trying to improve on the 8th I’ve got at the Tour. A top five would be really great."
Meintjes will be riding the Giro d’Italia in the colours of Dimension Data for the first time in two years after leaving them for Lampre-Merida in 2016. He has quickly settled back into his former team and is happy to be back.
"It’s really nice and they really believe in me. It’s a nice culture, which I relate to more, and that gives you a little extra comfort,” he said.
"I think the plan was always to come back. Maybe not necessarily after two years. In the bigger picture, I thought that it would have been nice to end my career at least being here."
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