The 23-year-old South African climber was unable to follow Richie Porte's violent acceleration 2km from the finish but had the form to finish ninth on the stage and so take the white jersey of the best young rider. Meintjes won the recent Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy with a solo attack on the last stage and looked good in the select group that formed on the earlier Hors Category climb of Santa Barbara when Team Sky shook out the peloton and overall contenders.
Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) and Ag2r-La Mondiale trio Romain Bardet, Jean-Christophe and Domenico Pozzovivo all cracked when Porte attacked, but Meintjes had the legs to limit his losses and finished in a small chase group at 43 seconds.
"It was pretty relaxed for most of the stage because everyone was waiting for the last two big climbs. Then Team Sky put down a hard tempo on the HC climb (the Passo Santa Barbara) and suddenly it was down to about 20 GC guys," Meintjes told Cyclingnews after pulling on the white jersey.
"Then when Porte went he was pretty much in a class of his own. When he decided to go everyone else could only watch him ride away."
Meintjes finished second to Michel Landa (Astana) on the big mountain stage to Monte Bondone last year but feels he has stepped up a level just as the MTN-Qhubeka team has done in 2015.
"I'm happy to have the result and with my ride. You always want to do better but it's a race I targeted and I'm here with some good form, so we'll see what happens in the remaining two stages. I've been progressing nicely every year and it seems to be continuing," he said.
MTN-Qhubeka opted not to chase a wild card invitation to the Giro d'Italia in 2015, hoping to land a place in the Tour de France. The strategy worked and now Meintjes is hoping to secure a place in the Tour de France team.
Sprinters such as Edvald Boasson Hagen, Matt Goss, Tyler Farrar and Theo Bos might have priority for the nine places, but Meintjes has the advantages of being South African, the current African Continental champion and the team's best hope in the mountains.
"The Tour de France is my goal, it's what I'm aiming for," he told Cyclingnews.
"It's not definite I've got a place in the team. We've got a strong team this year, so I have to justify my place, but my plan is to work towards the Tour as well as possible and hopefully secure selection. The team is going to decide the best nine riders, and I just hope I can let my legs do the talking.
"Riding the Tour de France would be a dream come true. It'd exceed my expectations for my career. I honestly never thought it'd happen this soon if it happens this year. I'm perhaps a little scared about it all but I'm also really looking forward to the challenge of it all too. It's a great opportunity for me and especially for the MTN-Qhubeka team."
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