After targeting the Giro d’Italia in 2018, Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data) will return to the Tour de France this season. Meintjes has twice previously finished in the top 10 at the Grand Boucle and is hoping to get a top result there again after a difficult last 12 months.
"I think that the plan will be to go for the Tour. We have to see how things go before then, but I think that will be the main thing," Meintjes told Cyclingnews. "To have a good Tour de France would definitely be a highlight."
Meintjes is starting his journey towards the Tour de France at the UAE Tour this week. The South African raced the national championships earlier in February but this is the first proper test of how his winter went. It was a long off-season for Meintjes, who stopped his 2018 campaign after finishing a disappointing 58th at the Vuelta a Espana.
The result summed up a challenging season for Meintjes, who struggled to find his form when he really needed it. The Giro had been his primary goal, but it ended prematurely when he abandoned with illness. The Vuelta a Espana did not go to plan either, with Meintjes finishing more than two hours behind the winner Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). Rather than push on, Meintjes decided to end his season there and take an elongated off-season. After five months out of racing, he's glad to be back in the mix.
"I'm happy to start again. I haven't done a WorldTour race since the Vuelta. Happy to start the season," Meintjes said. "There was a lot of effort that went into last year and we just didn't get the mix right. It was a bit frustrating, especially when you work and then you don't get much in return.
"You have ideas about what did and didn't work but, like most things there's no certain answer like bang that day was a turning point. I think it was maybe pushing it too hard at the start of the season. It was my first year preparing for the Giro, but I think I was maybe being a bit nervous trying to be on form so early in the season and trying to push it too far."
With the Tour de France the main objective, there is no pressure for Meintjes to be on-song so early in the season, and he's got muted expectations in the UAE. He will get his first proper chance to test his form on stage 3 with the summit finish to Jebel Hafeet.
"To feel good," he told Cyclingnews when asked what he hoped to get from the race. "I don't quite know where I'm at compared to the other guys and there's a lot of big names. Personally, the expectation is not too high. I'm definitely not going to be winning the race, but I want to go from here with good feelings."