After a turbulent few weeks during the winter, Louis Meintjes (UAE Abu Dhabi) was relieved to start racing at last month's Tour Down Under and the 24-year-old has firmly set his sights on another strong performance at the Tour de France this July.
The South African climber finished in eighth place at last year's Tour with a consistent set of displays in both the mountains and individual time trials. It marked his second top-10 finish in a Grand Tour in successive years, and expectations remain high for the talented rider.
"The plan is to obviously prepare for the Tour de France again. We have to see how the build-up goes but if everything is in order then I'll go back to the Tour," he recently told Cyclingnews.
"Hopefully it goes as well as last year. You always want to do better, and take something from the race but I just need to prepare as well as I can. Then when I'm there, if I can take a stage win or get a GC result… pretty much anything like that will do."
Meintjes had a quiet Tour Down Under - as he did in 2016, before he found his best form in June, July and August. Having been hampered by illness at the start of last year, and then suffering a serious fall, he is hoping to have smoother build up towards his major objectives.
"I had a bit of bad luck last year. I got sick near the start and then I had a pretty hard crash in Catalunya. But what I can take from last year is a lot of confidence. I've now had two GC results in Grand Tours.
"I would like to do well in the Dauphine if I can, again," he said, pointing to another top-10 GC result from 2016.
"That's always good for the morale. I'll try and recon some Tour stages this year and then a little closer to the time we'll consider an altitude camp."
This season season could have been markedly different for Meintjes had his team situation taken a turn for the worse. Over the winter, the set-up behind the UAE squad looked uncertain, with question marks over the team's financial backing. A training camp was cancelled, bikes were delivered late, and at one point it looked as though Meintjes and his teammates would be forced to search for other options. Finally, financial guarantees were met, and the squad took off.
"The team actually feels very similar to last year," he said when comparing the new squad with the Lampre Merida team he rode for in 2016.
"The winter was more annoying than stressful because either something was going to happen here or I was going to have to move to another team. We were pretty sure things were going to come through. Behind the scenes they seemed to have everything sorted quite quickly."
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