Stage 14 of the Vuelta a España proved to be a fruitful endeavour for the Pro-Continental MTN-Qhubeka team, which is making its grand tour debut courtesy of a wildcard invitation, as they animated the breakaway and scored a top-five finish to the pleasure of team principal Douglas Ryder.
The team has regularly been seen in breakaways at the Vuelta but it wasn't until the 200km stage from Santander to La Camperona that it managed to pull off a top result on a stage.
22-year-old Louis Meintjes had made his way into the day's breakaway along with 22 other riders, including teammates Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Jaco Venter, which went clear after 50km of racing.
Venter in particular was seen setting the tempo and working to get Meintjes into a good position for the stage win before the approach of the final climb of the day to La Camperona. Meintjes was then one of the first riders from the whittled down breakaway to attack on the lower slopes of the final climb.
After the stage Meintjes was full of praise for the work done by his two teammates.
"Today was a really good day, my legs felt really good," Meintjes said. "The final climb was really steep, I saw so many sign boards and thought we had to be really close to finish at one stage until I saw the 1 km to go banner in the distance still (laughs). I am really happy with my result but I must say both Jacques and Jaco were just fantastic today. It was a good day for the team."
It wasn't just the result of Meintjes that impressed Ryder, but the team's effort to execute a plan on a tough mountain stage.
"The level of racing is super high in a Grand Tour and today's ride by Louis shows his incredible talent and race maturity beyond his young years and experience," Ryder said. "But the team performance was picture perfect, the commitment to get three riders in the breakaway to support one result is what makes this team so special. Louis finished off great work from Jacques and Jaco and the rest of the team."
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