Louis Meintjes has some unfinished business with the Tour de France after being forced to abandon his debut effort in the final week in July -a moment he calls the lowest point of his season. After starting with so much promise, Meinjtes ended his Tour in hospital after falling ill, and he’s eager to rectify that in 2016.
“I would really like to go back to the Tour de France and finish it this time,” he told Cyclingnews. “The Tour de France was just next level. Riders always tell you there is nothing like it then you experience it for yourself and you realise what they have been talking about all this time. It's just something special.”
When Meintjes does go back to the Tour de France, it will not be with the MTN-Qhubeka team where he spent his early career. It will be all change next season as he begins a two-year contract with Lampre-Merida.
The 23-year-old made a late call to join the Italian team after it appeared he was on the verge of renewing with MTN-Qhubeka. It was a move that surprised a lot of people, including the team, who said they had no idea the switch was coming. Meintjes remained quiet on the exact reasoning behind the move but said that he was looking forward to getting started in his new home.
“I think there is a lot I can learn at Lampre-Merida and believe that I will get good opportunities in the team,” said Meintjes. “I will meet the team in the first week of December in Italy. The atmosphere around the team always looks relaxed and friendly. I've had some contact with the management and I can't wait to start working with them and get the preparations started for 2016.”
Learning at the Vuelta
The 2015 season, his third as a professional, was a big one for Meintjes. In the first half of the year, he notched up two young rider’s jerseys at the Tour of Oman and the Giro del Trentino, he also laid claim to his first victory on European soil with a stage and the overall classification at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. He was also able to bounce back from the disappointment of leaving the Tour de France by riding the Vuelta a Espana, where he finished 10th overall, 10:26 down on the race winner Fabio Aru (Astana).
“I guess two Grand Tours in one year was something really great for me to experience and see how far I could push my body,” Meintjes said. “Starting the Tour de France was pretty amazing. There really is nothing like it but the whole Vuelta was a good experience too."
“[At the Vuelta] first the plan was to just focus on one or two stages to get a stage result. But after feeling good in the first week and looking at the race book I thought it was a good opportunity to try go for GC. I'm really happy with how my body responded with the workload. Hopefully, that is a good sign for the future.”
Aside from rectifying what happened at the Tour de France, Meintjes objectives for 2016 are simple. “I have had a lot of good opportunities and good luck this past season and hope next year will be the same,” he said. “[I want] to take all the opportunities that come my way, and hopefully there will be a lot in 2016.”