After back-to-back top 10 overall finishes in the Tour de France, Louis Meintjes will change focus in 2018 and target the Giro d'Italia for the first time. The 25 year-old South African says it's part of a long-term plan to gain experience and fight for the yellow jersey at the Tour de France by 2020.
Meintjes is rejoining the Dimension Data team – where he started his career – after two years away at the Lampre/UAE set-up. He revealed his plans during a press conference in South Africa on Friday as the team gathered for its first camp of the off-season.
Meintjes was flanked by Mark Cavendish and the young South African talent Nicolas Diamini at the top table, with team manager Doug Ryder on hand to map out the team's objectives in 2018 and beyond.
"Louis has an exciting opportunity now to challenge for real high placings in the next few years, especially in 2018, to get right up in the top 10 of a Grand Tour and get closer and closer to the podium," said Ryder. "So that will be a big objective for Louis, and obviously the target being the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in 2020."
Handing the microphone over to Meintjes, he explained that the three-year plan will run through Italy next May. Previously he has only done the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, doubling up in the past three seasons, but he believes the Giro will make him a more complete rider.
"The plan is to try for a podium by 2020, but I think for next year we're going to take a slightly different approach and use the Giro as a test, and a learning curve, trying to learn new skills and get some more experience and confidence.
"Hopefully by 2020 we can use that experience to take the step up in the Tour."
Meintjes explained that he is likely to start his road to Jerusalem – where the Giro will start in 2018 – at the Tour of Algarve in February, followed by Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya in March and the Tour of the Alps in April, with the possibility of Liège-Bastogne-Liège a couple of weeks before the Grande Partenza.
"The last two years were a good experience. I think I learned a lot," Meintjes said of his return to 'Africa's team'. "Now it's nice to come back where it's familiar and where things are comfortable."